Multilingualism in my family: MaryAnne's story

5 Feb 2013

Multilingualism in my family adds another family to the mix this week. We meet MaryAnne and her family. The story is a little different as MaryAnne explains that she really struggled to use a non-native language with her kids at home despite her professional training. As she mentions, it is proof that raising bilingual children needs more than theory!
via Scazon on Flickr

1. Name


2. Blog

3. In what country do you currently live?

United States (near Boston, Massachusetts). I was raised in the United States, Guatemala, France, Bolivia, and Austria. I speak French very well, and Spanish and German with very poor grammar and a limited vocabulary. I can read some Russian and a little Serbo-Croatian.

4. How many children have you got and how old are they?

Four: a six-year-old daughter, five-year-old son, three-year-old daughter, and four-month-old daughter

5. Who speaks what to whom (in the home)?

I speak French with my husband (occasionally), and sometimes give my kids mini French lessons. My kids occasionally hear me speak (poor) German with the children of a friend. And they may have hear me speak Spanish once or twice (again, not terribly well).

6. What language do your children hear outside home?

A little Spanish, a little Cambodian, a little German, and a little Portuguese – but none on a regular basis.

7. If you had to put percentages on the languages your child(ren) hear what would they be?

At most 10% French; on a daily basis it is at least 90% English. Other languages are only heard in very small amounts.

8. Did you set out to follow a particular method to raise your child(ren) multilingually? Why? Why not?

I originally was going to raise my children to speak more French than they do, but my two oldest children really struggled with learning to speak in any language, so we simplified and switched over to English only. My six-year-old still has an awesome French accent; I just need to teach her more vocabulary.

9. What works with your current family language set up? Why?

English is easy for all of us, and it’s everyone’s first language.

10. What doesn’t work? Why?

My kids are interested in learning French, and I would like to move more into teaching it to them again. My husband speaks decent French as well, so it’s the perfect second language for our family.

11. What would you do differently if you could or would have to do it again?

The only thing I would do differently is to start incorporating more French into our home now.

12. Any other comments

I think it’s a little ironic that I am trained as a foreign language teacher and have not done a very good job of passing that skill onto my children. Proof that training isn’t the only factor for success!

1 comment

  1. Maryanne, I think it's great that you recognized your children's particular needs and didn't sacrifice them to your own desire to teach them a foreign language. But how nice that things have progressed to the point that you could start incorporating more French again.


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