Multilingualism in my family: Guillaume's story

8 Feb 2017

It has been a really really long time since I have posted an instalment of this series. As a reminder, these family interviews just serve one important purpose in my opinion: to remind us all that there is NOT one way of raising multilingual children. 

Image by Eltpics via FLickr

So, without further ado, meet Guillaume and his family living in Ireland with their secret Spanish language. 

1. Name


2. In what country do you currently live?


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

Daughter L is 8, son K is 4. They were born in Ireland. During the week, they both go to school then childcare for 9 to 10 hours a day.

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

Both parents are French, and French is spoken in the home - almost exclusively. L and K use English and French when playing together.

5. What language do your children hear outside home?

English (everywhere): the majority language.

Irish (school only): Irish is constitutionally the first language of Ireland, and is a compulsory subject from the first year of education. Most of the population do not speak it well enough to use it in everyday situations, so its practical uses are very limited (in 2011, less than 2% of the population used Irish daily). That said, it is L’s favourite subject!

Polish and other Eastern European languages (friends): There are more Polish (2.7%) than any other foreign nationals in Ireland. L and K attend one of the few non-religious (or rather, ‘multidenominational’) primary schools in the country. There are 40-50 nationalities represented in the school, which makes it very multicultural!

Spanish (friends): Spoken by Irish-Spanish friends, and sometimes by Mum and Dad when they don’t want the kids to understand them...

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

55% English, 47% French, < 3% Irish, < 1% Polish and Spanish

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

We experimented a bit with ‘one parent, one language’ (I would speak to L in English) in the early days, but quickly switched to ‘minority language at home’ (mL@H), as i did not feel natural and we could see how difficult it would be to maintain a good level of French.

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

mL@H works very well. L in particular loves playing with languages and accents.

9. What doesn’t work? Why?

Nothing in particular. At one stage L did not like being corrected so she suggested that we rephrase her statements as a question, and it helps!
L: J’attends pour Ailbhe. [I am waiting Ailbhe]
G: Tu attends Ailbhe ? [Are you waiting for Ailbhe ?]

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


11. Any other comments.

The kids love getting their French magazines in the post every couple of weeks, so we definitely recomment getting subscriptions to minority language publications for children.

Read about other families here.
Are you a multilingual family? Would you like to share your story? Contact me.

1 comment

  1. Very interesting article!Love to hear about different multicultural/bilingual families!


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