Multilingualism in my family: Jan's story

3 Sept 2013

In our monthly instalment of Multilingualism in my family, we meet Jan (aka Babel Dad) and his family in Manchester, England. I am sure you are familiar with Babel Dad and Babel Mum. If you are not, please do follow their blog. It is one of my favourite. They are raising their 3 daughters (referred to as BK) with 4 languages (just like us).

by Damouns via Flickr

1. Name


2. Blog

3. In what country do you currently live?


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

3: BK1 is 8, BK2 is 5, BK3 is 2

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

BabelMum <-> BK1/BK2/BK3: Algerian / French
BM <-> me: French
Me <-> BK1/BK2/BK3: German
The Babelkids: whatever was last spoken, slight tendency towards Algerian. Except when they play and switch to English, which they do a lot but not always.

6. What language do your children hear outside home?

English mostly, but some Algerian as well.

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

Daily basis: between school and TV, they probably hear about 60% English, 15% Arabic, 15% French and 10% German.

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

OPOL. Never thought about it, really, except that I wanted to speak with my children using “my language”. Turns out we’re also doing ML@H, aren’t we?

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

All 3 BKs understand all 4 languages. I reckon that’s a testament to OPOL.

10. What doesn’t work? Why?

They speak all 4 languages and BK1 reads (and even writes a little bit) 3 of them. But they’re clearly only really good in English. All other languages come with accents or funny grammar that is borrowed from English.

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


12. Any other comments

I am sure that if ever we move to an Arabic-, French- or German-speaking country, all three children will pick up accents and grammar in no time.

Many thanks to Jan for answering my questions. I am sure he is right, moving to any of those countries would be child's play for their girls. This is my opinion too.


  1. How amazing they can speak 4 languages!! How can they manage it? In my family, we ONLY speak 2 languages...(already submited my family story)
    Thank you for sharing!

    By the way, you are more than welcome to link-up with me with any posts you have, past or present, about multi-lingual living (parenting, teaching, learning, resources), or anything relating to family, children, and education. Just click “Add your link” and copy/paste the URL of your blog post at Keep in touch!

    1. Lina, we manage to pass on 4 languages thanks to a fundamental factor: we do not speak the majority language at home. This is the reason Jan says we do OPOL and MLAH at the same time. I (BabelMUM) wrote about why OPOL may or may not work depending on setup

      Thanks Anabelle for publishing the interview :)


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