Multilingualism in my family: Anita's story

2 Jul 2013

In our monthly instalment of Multilingualism in my family, we meet Anita and her family in Spain.
Anita is French and is raising her daughter bilingually. Anita shares her sadness at people thinking that a shy little girl not answering their question may be caused by bilingualism. I share that feeling! Many of us do. She also explains how bilingualism is still seen negatively in some parts of Spain.

© Borkur via Flickr

1. Name

Dad is José Antonio, Spanish, Mum is Anita, French. Our daughter is Iloane, franco-española!

2. Blog

Bilingue (in French mostly)

3. In what country do you currently live?

In Spain.

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

Our daughter was born in May 2010. She is 3.

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

At home, Dad speaks Spanish to Iloane and Iloane speaks Spanish to Dad. Mum speaks French to Iloane and Iloane speaks French to Mum. Dad and Mum (try to...) speak mostly in French at home. Iloane speaks French or Spanish to her toys, it depends.

6. What language do your children hear outside home?

Iloane goes to nursery (crèche) since she is 5 months old. There, they speak Spanish. Neighbours and friends always speak Spanish except one friend who is half French and speaks French to Iloane. She sees her maybe once a month only. Half family is Spanish and don’t know any word in French and the other half is French and know how to say “hola” and “gracias”! We try to see each half family about 4-5 times a year. Iloane has already spent some days alone with French family.

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

Spanish (crèche+dad+outside): 50 %

French (mum+tv): 40%

English (cartoons or songs on computer):10%

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

One person-one language was the natural way. Since the pregnancy dad and mum speak French together. Was difficult but we did it (almost)!

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

Iloane always speaks French to mum and Spanish to dad. She also knows who speaks what. 
I’m very happy my daughter started speaking quite early and very clearly. I had read a lot about bilingual and often read bilingual children spoke well but late. She showed everyone that this is not true!

10. What doesn’t work? Why?

In France if someone asks her to “count or to say something in Spanish or how does daddy speak...” she (and I) hates this and doesn’t answer.

In Spain when she is with mum and neighbours ask her “how are you, where are you going, or what’s her name (or only say hello!)” and she doesn’t say a word. I know that this is not question of language, but Spanish people knowing I speak French seem to think this is because of bilingualism.

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

Nothing! I’m so glad and proud of her. I’m only afraid it doesn’t last. Afraid of school start in September, hope it won’t change anything.
Most difficult thing was to switch language with my husband. We met in 2001 and always spoke Spanish. We tried 321 times to switch to French but never manage. When I got pregnant it was so important for me we speak French at home at least when our daughter is with us. We did it although we still go through difficulties and misunderstandings....

12. Any other comments

In Spain, speaking a language other people don’t understand is often considered as a lack of respect (especially due to the Basque and Catalan languages ...). I get very upset about this when people don’t understand why I won’t speak Spanish to my daughter in presence of other people.

If you would like to take part in this series, please contact me at thepiripirilexicon at A big thank you to Anita for answering my questions.


  1. Raising a child to speak two languages is much more difficult than I thought. We got a late start, which in one way makes it easier and another more difficult. It's a struggle, but think of how much the world opens up to them, especially when they get older. Congrats!

  2. Hello, I'm Anita "the mum of th family", please note I changed the blog adress. thanks


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