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Building Cultural Bridges

Sep 14, 2011

by Caleb Gardner

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Although my background is somewhat ethnically monotone, my son actually has a deep cultural heritage. My wife is French, and her mother’s entire side of the family still lives in France. At a little over two years old, Miles has already traveled overseas to meet this side of the family.

Sometimes it’s hard to have a son who is inherently cooler than you are.

Despite being French, my wife’s mother has actually recently moved to Spain. She fell in love with the Spanish language and the city of Madrid, and like the adventurer she is, decided to make it her new home. This means that when she comes to visit, some combination of Spanish, French and English pervades our home.

Right now Miles is like a little language vacuum, sucking up everything he hears and regurgitating his interpretation of it back to us. Given his cultural background, we like to think that he’s absorbing some of the non-English vocabulary as well, and we’ve encouraged him in this direction. We’ve even gone so far as to buy some of his favorite books in other languages. (If you want a good laugh, listen to me trying to read Bonsoir Lune. Train wreck.)

What has worked surprisingly well is exposing Miles to multicultural shows such as Dora the Explorer. Personally I think watching Dora is like going on a bad trip — talking backpacks, booted monkeys, dancing stars, oh my! — but Miles loves it. And Dora is great at getting him to participate by saying Spanish vocabulary words. Miles just recently started counting, but thanks to Dora, we’ve caught him counting in Spanish as well as English.

Even if Miles wasn’t part French, we’d want to put an emphasis on language learning. Studies have shown that kids absorb language at an incredible rate at this age, and learning a second language will help give Miles a leg up later in life.

But learning a second language is much more than that. If words really are so important, if they really do provide a bridge between thoughts, experiences and memories, then learning another language will provide Miles with a bridge to someplace outside of his cultural norm. His absorption of multiple languages will help him be a free thinker who can creatively interpret any situation and see things from multiple points of view. To me, that’s an important part of being a global citizen, and a reason I’ve placed an emphasis on language learning in my own life.

I know there are many of you who have mixed cultural heritages, and I would be fascinated to hear some of your stories. How have you handed that down to your kids? Do you put an emphasis on different languages in your home?

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3 Featured Comments

  • BanglewoodSupplies

    BanglewoodSupplies said 5 years ago Featured

    Language divides us in so many ways. I think everyone should attempt to learn another language because there is such a unspoken unity about it...something we all need right now. I was born and raised in Virginia. But, in my twenties I moved to New York and completely fell in love with all the cultures. I ate it up and learned sooo much. It helped mold me even in my 20s.

  • MissTessaMelissa

    MissTessaMelissa said 5 years ago Featured

    Maybe not too far across the globe, but I was adopted at age nine by my Mexican/Spanish dad. My bloodline is Irish/Italian, and it was so interesting to me to learn about my dad's heritage. I have accepted it as my own at this point. When I had my son, I made sure that my Mexican/Spanish last name was in his name, so he would never forget that his roots are there no matter what a blood test would say. Also, as my son started Kindergarten this year, I enrolled him in a Dual Language school. This means that there are days where class is taught in English, and days where class is taught in Spanish. It is so cool to see how easily these young kids adapt to learning in both languages. After only 3 weeks in school, my son uses Spanish whenever he can!

  • redemptionart

    redemptionart said 5 years ago Featured

    I am native Hawaiian. Sadly, for many years, our native tongue was discouraged. English speaking schools were founded as a way to segregate the families who complied from the families who wanted to preserve the language. Over the years we fought the hard fight and finally in the mid 70s a resurgence of the culture and language occurred. It was no longer acceptable to oppress a people by disconnecting them from their culture. Although we never stopped speaking in Hawaiian phrases and words in our own homes, the fluency of the language had to be re-taught to the next generations. Today, Hawaii is the only state in the nation that boasts has two official languages, Hawaiian and English. On top of this during the sugar plantation days cultures from all over the globe made Hawaii their home resulting in a "pidgin" that is influenced by Hawaiian, Japanese, Filipino, Portuguese and Spanish. This is more interesting to listen to then our actual languages! My children are Hawaiian, Chinese, Chilean and Caucasin. My grandchildren have Filipino, Puerto Rican, Samoan and American Indian added to that!

78 comments

  • VintageEye

    VintageEye said 5 years ago

    Language adds such richness to life so why not speak as many as you can? Miles is a lucky little lad!

  • MissHildebrandt

    MissHildebrandt said 5 years ago

    Beautiful article. To be able to communicate with many languages... one way to rule the world! X C.L. Hildebrandt

  • TwinkleStarCrafts

    TwinkleStarCrafts said 5 years ago

    Great article. Speaking a language not native to you is so very enriching. Teaching your child about other cultures (especially his very own French roots) will allow him to build bridges with co-workers, make new friends and enjoy the the best that the world can offer him in terms of food, music and good friends.

  • rarebeasts

    rarebeasts said 5 years ago

    Great article! Learning is alway fun.

  • tarikyousef

    tarikyousef said 5 years ago

    I love it, I grew up in an english arabic househould. Untill I was school aged, arabic was my primary language. My sister was so confused by both languages that she refused to speak at all. My parents had to pick one language around her and finally she started speaking. She had already learned both languages, but just chose not to speak either out of confusion. However, once she started talking, it was very hard to get her to stop!

  • teryyo

    teryyo said 5 years ago

    Nice, insightful article. For a few years now my husband and I have been learning Hindi. Although neither of our backgrounds are Indian, it has been a wonderful adventure in being able to learn an additional language, the ability to be able to communicate with others in that language, and being exposed to a different culture. If we were to have children, we would also teach them. This is a very diverse and beautiful world we live in!

  • WhisperingOak

    WhisperingOak said 5 years ago

    Learning another language opens up so many opportunities and makes the brain work different areas. Great article

  • BanglewoodSupplies

    BanglewoodSupplies said 5 years ago Featured

    Language divides us in so many ways. I think everyone should attempt to learn another language because there is such a unspoken unity about it...something we all need right now. I was born and raised in Virginia. But, in my twenties I moved to New York and completely fell in love with all the cultures. I ate it up and learned sooo much. It helped mold me even in my 20s.

  • ChickensToothStudio

    ChickensToothStudio said 5 years ago

    Nice article!

  • MootiDesigns

    MootiDesigns said 5 years ago

    How wonderful. I feel fortunate to speak French, Spanish and English too. Very nice article!

  • AliKan

    AliKan said 5 years ago

    I always felt that i am multi-cultural, I am British-Irish with my Dad from Northern Ireland and my Mum from the Republic. I am 15 years old , I live in Northern Ireland and am one of the first generations to truly experience globalization. My Grandad is from Boston, which isn't that exotic but i have a German cousin and uncle, Turkish great-uncle, French great-aunt, lots of British and Irish cousins. I go on holiday nearly every year, I have experienced the cultures of Spain, France, Turkey, Germany, Belgium, England and Scotland. Upon that i learn three languages at school, French , Spanish and Chinese. I feel that having been exposed to so many cultures and differences i am a tolerant, cultural person. Culture is very important to all of us and i think it would be great if we all just learned another as it would shape us all into tolerant and understanding people.

  • paramountvintage

    paramountvintage said 5 years ago

    i'm so happy that families are embracing their cultural differences and preserving cultures and languages. this is so important to pass onto children. great article!

  • BinduDesigns

    BinduDesigns said 5 years ago

    I heard recently that people who can communicate in more than one language are exercising their minds more. so they are less prone to alzheimer's disease. I am sure, Miles is getting a leg up in his life with all the languages he knows. In this world of internet, he is really going to thrive. Being an immigrant to Canada, I learn to speak English. My daughter can speak English and French. I think, Miles will soon be reading books in many languages. One day, he is going to come and tell you, "Dad you are the coolest dad in the whole world. Thank you".

  • LittleWrenPottery

    LittleWrenPottery said 5 years ago

    How sweet! I've sometimes struggled with languages but to me language just opens doors. It shows you've tried to make some sort of time and effort to understand another culture, that you don't just expect everyone to speak english.

  • jammerjewelry

    jammerjewelry said 5 years ago

    Wonderful article, thanks for sharing

  • Percolating

    Percolating said 5 years ago

    I am Chinese, grew up in a Chinese speaking household in California. Learning a different language has helped me to pick up French faster while in high school. Speaking English in China has helped me find work. Understanding more than one culture has helped me to have a broader perspective on life. I do not have any children but if I did, then I would definitely raise my child to speak Chinese. Learning to read and write in a foreign language definitely helps as well when started at a younger age.

  • MegansMenagerie

    MegansMenagerie said 5 years ago

    Such a great article! Thanks so much for sharing!

  • sweetmeatclothing

    sweetmeatclothing said 5 years ago

    You should give him Le Petit Prince, it's the first book I read in french, it's very simple and has a sweet story :)

  • sparrowgrey

    sparrowgrey said 5 years ago

    Coming from families with very similar traditions, I'm excited to mix the Lebanese traditions of my husband's family with my family's Irish ones. Great post!

  • MissTessaMelissa

    MissTessaMelissa said 5 years ago Featured

    Maybe not too far across the globe, but I was adopted at age nine by my Mexican/Spanish dad. My bloodline is Irish/Italian, and it was so interesting to me to learn about my dad's heritage. I have accepted it as my own at this point. When I had my son, I made sure that my Mexican/Spanish last name was in his name, so he would never forget that his roots are there no matter what a blood test would say. Also, as my son started Kindergarten this year, I enrolled him in a Dual Language school. This means that there are days where class is taught in English, and days where class is taught in Spanish. It is so cool to see how easily these young kids adapt to learning in both languages. After only 3 weeks in school, my son uses Spanish whenever he can!

  • dekoprojects

    dekoprojects said 5 years ago

    I'm a little language freak and I'm sure I will encourage my children to learn foreign tongues :) I often speak in other languages to my family, especially when I'm irritated. They get upset because they don't understand me :) and so the justice appears :) But languages are most important for me when I'm using the Web. I don't travel, I've never been abroad, but I can talk to other people, watch movies in foreign languages, search better information because I know 3 foreign languages. I actually worry that when my children won't be better than me I'll be angry with them, that I would demand too much from them... Time will tell.

  • QueenBeeVintiques

    QueenBeeVintiques said 5 years ago

    Your son is very fortunate to have a multi cultural experience...it will bless his life and the lives of others in so many special ways.

  • Colettesboutique

    Colettesboutique said 5 years ago

    I come from a French speaking country so my native language is French. I also speak a little bit of Spanish and since I live in the US, of course I also speak English. I have always been fascinated by people who speak multiple languages, so as a teenager my dream has always been to learn many languages and cultures. I am trying to teach that to my children as I desperately want them to learn French.

  • iheartchelsyanne

    iheartchelsyanne said 5 years ago

    For the last two years of my daughters three year old life we have been having fun celebrating other cultures holidays. I also have bought some great books in french and spanish ie. Taro Gomi's My Friends (english & spanish). My ultimate favorite is Marc Boutavant's Around the world with MOUK. The best part about all this language, cultural stuff though really is not only the joy the kids get but the fact that I am having fun learning it alongside.

  • Davs

    Davs said 5 years ago

    My neighbors are a multicultural family and I find myself in awe of their little girl not even 3 years old who already speaks fluently in two different languages. Me on the other hand my background is as you say ethnically monotone... haha! Well put!

  • HusbandWifeCreate

    HusbandWifeCreate said 5 years ago

    So wonderful for your son! My husband and I have had our daughter listening to different languages since she was in the womb. He was born in South America, and speaks fluent Spanish. In addition to that, Arabic, French, Hindi, Russian, Mandarin, Japanese, Latin, etc. via internet or books. I think it's wonderful. We're trying to learn with her. Best of luck to you and your family!

  • Officeboy01

    Officeboy01 said 5 years ago

    Enjoyed the article. Nice to read after such a hot day.

  • emhGraphics

    emhGraphics said 5 years ago

    Oh what a nice story. I think learning languages and learning to swim at a very early age are such wonderful things that didn't seem to happen when I was young. Thanks for the good read.

  • MySweetPumpkin

    MySweetPumpkin said 5 years ago

    A lovely article and great parenting! So many people just have no interest in cultures other than their own and I think it shows such a sad lack of imagination. My husband and I are both,as you say,"ethnically monotone" and unfortunately the area we live in is as well.We are trying to do what we can to let our daughter know there is so much more to the world than just this.We have little disposable income but we travel as much as we can.So far the only trip she's had out of the U.S. was to Canada but still,not bad for a 4 year old.Our local library had a great program this summer where they highlighted a different country and culture each week with speakers,videos,stories and crafts.We are working on learning Chinese together...with the help,I hate to admit,of a cartoon character named Kai-lan.I find her slightly less bothersome than Dora.

  • chiquiita

    chiquiita said 5 years ago

    I am fascinated with your article. I am Cuban-Spaniard-American, have lived in different countries and enjoy being trilingual and multicultural. My dream is for the United States to become a bilingual country, like some other countries.... At home, we speak Spanish, English and French, some Portuguese as well. My daughter, 19, and a sophomore in college has a double minor, one of them in French. The fact that she speaks Spanish has helped her learning some other languages as well. While learning a second language can be difficult, starting at a young age can be rewarding and a lot of fun for children because it opens up a whole new world to them, since they are exposed to other cultures, traditions other than their own.

  • HibouCards

    HibouCards said 5 years ago

    Hi! I loved hearing your story as it is kinda similar to ours. I'm French and my hubby is American and he doesn't speak French. We decided that I would only speak French to my son in order for him to keep the language going in his everyday life. How surprised was I when I realized it is not as easy as it sounds to speak my own native language to my son Jack! In an entirely English speaking environment, knowing that he goes to school and speaks English there and also knowing that my husband doesn't speak French (he gets better at understanding it now though :) I actually found it difficult to have the discipline to always speak French to Jack... and a few month ago I realized that I was almost giving up because it was just easier that way and I didn't have to translate all the time to my hubby or my in-laws... etc It's only after our trip to France this Summer to visit my family that I realized I really had to keep up with it . At the end of our trip Jack was back to speaking good French and I decided that it wasn't so important for others around me to understand what I was saying to my kid as it was for him to be able to continue to practice his French. Again in an entirely English speaking environment I have to do this and ask him to speak to me only in French because otherwise he will loose it.... not totally of course but he will not be comfortable and fluent in it. So now I'm more relaxed and just do what I need to do in order for my son to keep his French heritage alive. I read to him in French (we're lucky enough to have an amazing French library in Boston!) and make sure he knows what he needs to know about France and our culture. He also watches cartoons in French... Dora in French is hilarious! And Titi et Gros Minet... as in Tweety the bird and Sylvester... is always a source of great laughter for my hubby when he hears it.... We feel very happy that our son gets to travel regularly to France and opens his horizons! And now hat my brother in law married a Chinese woman we'll get to hear English, French and Mandarin in our houses for Christmas. I love it! thanks for sharing all your stories, this was a really great post! Anne-Claire

  • tiltomorrow

    tiltomorrow said 5 years ago

    Wonderful article. So easy for children to learn and speak different languages. My niece is a tween and she is learning three languages. I find it hard as an adult to learn another language. Great way to end the day with such encouraging comments. I tried speaking another language today and it about drove me crazy. I will try again and again.

  • Prettyfox09

    Prettyfox09 said 5 years ago

    It's wonderful to teach children other languages! Not only does it teach them more about communication and how we use our own language as far as construction but it promotes cultural respect as well. Love it :)

  • chiquiita

    chiquiita said 5 years ago

    As a Spanish teacher who teaches pre-schoolers, I am sharing your article with staff and parents. I find it very interesting and I'm sure they will too. Gracias, Tania

  • ClayCat

    ClayCat said 5 years ago

    Great topic & article. The best time to learn a language is when you are a kid and the best way to learn it, is through play ;) In my house we speak Spanish & English (and yes, spanglish too! lol). I'm Venezuelan, my husband from Mexico, and we live in the USA. My family (for political reasons, is all over the world, from Spain to Australia and even Taiwan). With such an international family we're always traveling to new places, speaking more than one language sure helps to assimilate the culture and enhance the experiences. We are planning on learning french as a family this coming winter. I wouldn't be surprised if my kids learn it faster than my hubby and I ;) It always amazes me how kids meet kids and start communicating right away... my girls think they already speak dutch & Portuguese..! :)

  • katrinaalana

    katrinaalana said 5 years ago

    I love learning new languages or dialects. We moved around a lot when I was younger and I did pick up dialect quite easily. Now I'm a bit older and I'm struggling to learn a new language and it frustrates me. Expose your children to language when they are younger. They can't pick it up within 6 months.

  • MochaGoddess

    MochaGoddess said 5 years ago

    Great post! I have a 3 year old who learns anything you put in front of him. Wondering if anyone has used a program that works for this age. I am interested in French, Hindi, Arabic and Mandarin Chinese. Hindi would be fun since my best friend and her daughter are best friends with my daughter and me. I watch and understand some Hindi since I have watched the bollywood stuff for the last ten years. I try to get the latest good movies for my children and I to watch.

  • FibbingFrancis

    FibbingFrancis said 5 years ago

    I moved around alot growing up and then moved to Brazil as a teenager where I lived for almost 7 years. Living in Brazil and learning a new language taught me waaaaaay more than just words, it changed my entire life! It opened my eyes to a whole new take on - well on everything! One of the great side effects of learning a new language is that it requires learning a new culture as well (even if you never go overseas to learn). Learning a second language has opened numerous doors for me, and has never brought anything but positive opportunities and changes - I would encourage anyone to give it a shot! While in Brazil, I met my husband and we are now raising our daughter to speak both English and Portuguese (essentially she hears both all the time). This is a thought provoking article, thank you!

  • LavenderField

    LavenderField said 5 years ago

    I was born in the U.S. but my parents are both from Argentina, and I was brought up in Mexico, so Spanish was the first language I ever learned. Now I live in Cyprus and even though Greek is spoken here I managed to speak Spanish to my kids since day 1. So now they speak 3 languages: Greek, English and Spanish (and so do I :0) ). They did take a bit longer to start talking (my daughter at age 2 1/2 and my son at age 2) because they would hear 3 languages daily, but it was worth it!

  • FlutterbyeNotes

    FlutterbyeNotes said 5 years ago

    We have our son enrolled in a Spanish immersion preschool. He doesn't really like it all that much, because it is frustrating to him. But we feel it is important for him to learn a second language, and starting young is the best. I've been frustrated that in my family, my great-grandmother spoke almost no English, only Spanish, and my father speaks almost no Spanish. How sad to have lost that side of his culture.

  • AliceCloset

    AliceCloset said 5 years ago

    Great topic and article! Lerning is funny :D Thank you for sharing with us!

  • tiltomorrow

    tiltomorrow said 5 years ago

    I enjoyed reading A Story of Character Development. I wonder how many language's the books are written in?

  • blessedvintage

    blessedvintage said 5 years ago

    I always wished my parents was from somewhere else. lol

  • soubey

    soubey said 5 years ago

    Encouraging article, I am retired and now live in the wonderful Country of France, my spoken French is dreadful along with understand conversations: almost about to give up! you have given me the push needed to keep up with the learning, thank you

  • moeata

    moeata said 5 years ago

    I’m so glad that you wrote about this topic! I am a proud “third culture kid” and am the adult child of Chinese mother and an American father. And while my mother is ethnically Chinese she was born and raised in Tahiti, which is a part of French Polynesia. She moved here when she was 19, met my dad and the rest is history. She did not speak much French to us growing up, but when I was 10 she took a sabbatical and we lived in France for a year. I learned to speak French, went to school, and was completely immersed in the culture. It ended up being the most influential year of my life and change my perspective on life and the world forever. Both of my parents were teachers so all the summers before and after that year in France were also spent traveling to the South Pacific, Europe and throughout the US as well. I am so grateful that my parents took the time and money to show us the world and all of our cultures from when we were little, because my traditions are instilled in me in a way that could never be learned as an adult. I am so lucky to have the gift of being French, Tahitian, Chinese and American and to also know about parts of each culture and language. I get to live my life every day knowing about every part of me, and using it to relate to the world and as a way to find my place in it. Being able to adapt to new situations and act as translator has opened opportunities for me and given me a thirst for adventure and travel that is basically insatiable. So yes, please do teach your son about all of his cultures, not just the one he lives in! It may be hard but as the result of parents who put in the effort… it is completely worth it!

  • mentalembellisher

    mentalembellisher said 5 years ago

    Lovely blog post! Both my kids are bilingual french/english and it makes their minds sharper for all other subjects too. Learning other languages at a very young age is so easy, just more words to absorb! And now that they are grown-up, they have so many more choices in the job world....

  • PolClary

    PolClary said 5 years ago

    I'm from the Netherlands. Our family moved to Canada for a few years when our children were four and seven. They both started learning English before the move with the Muzzy dvds (which can also be kind of like a bad trip, with giant green monsters eating parking meters) and picked up a lot just by watching English television. The school in Canada helped a lot, giving the kids extra language classes and attention. These days, my kids both speak fluent English and my youngest just graduated as a translator. Learning a language at a young age, when it's easier, is a great stepping stone later in life!

  • LAccentNou

    LAccentNou said 5 years ago

    I'm agree that kids absorb languages like sponges! And we don't need to be afraid to let them learn. I'm Russian and my husband is Catalan. We live on Mallorca island, Spain, where 2 languages are official - Catalan and Spanish and the society is bilingual. Kids study both languages at school and speak them perfectly. Of course they study English at school too! I speak with my kids in Russian always and my husband speaks in Catalan. Our daughter goes to Russia every summer and speak quiet good Russian, not perfect though. Cartoons in Russian, Catalan, Spanish, English, French...everything is welcome and especially little ones they don't mind to accept any language. It's incredible how kids are flexible, we must learn to be so flexible!

  • abbyberkson

    abbyberkson said 5 years ago

    I have always wished that I started learning another language when I was very small. The brain can pick things up so easiiy before the age of three, then it gets more and more set in it's ways. I have tried to learn Spanish multiple times as an adult, with fairly sorry results! My cousin Nico, who also grew up in New Hampshire but who's dad is Spanish, has just been bilingual since he started talking, and I swear he is smarter because of it, as well as being connected to another culture. I envy it! What a lovely way to grow up,

  • Guchokipa

    Guchokipa said 5 years ago

    I moved Japan with the intention raising my son bilingual. Now I have two sons and a daughter and all of them are reaping thd benefits of living bilingually and biculturally. My daughter is too young for school yet but knows just as much Japanese as she does English. My sons learn, play, speak, and read in two languages. Both of them attend local schools where immersion is the only option. In our home, we speak only English to balance the languages. So far, so good. My husband and I are not nearly as fluent in Japanese as they are but we hope to catch up someday. Right now we are mainly concerned with allowing them to have this opportunity to broaden their horizons and their mental capacities through a solid bilingual upbringing. I myself teach children English as a foreign language and can tell which families really support their child's language learning and which families just send them to English class to check it off the activity list. Learning a new language gives you a whole new world and parents who want their children to be bilingual must accept this, the benefits and the drawbacks included.

  • treehouseherbs

    treehouseherbs said 5 years ago

    There should ba a 'multi-lingual etsy family' team! ;) (or is there already?! I have to check...) I only can agree - both my husband an I are from Germany and our sons were born here in the US. Our older son (just turned 8) corrects our English at times - it's amazing :) Well, not to him. It's simply natural. That's the beauty of raising children in different parts of the world... they just absorb and there they go. With our little guy we still are curious of he'll prefer English over German. So far he speaks more English than German, but of course has no trouble understanding both equally. We hope we can 'throw' in another language in the mix soon (babysitter?, exchange student?... any other suggestions?!) Well, there I could go on and on, but I don't want to keep everyone too long. have a great day!!!

  • purposedesign

    purposedesign said 5 years ago

    Although I live in Montreal, I grew up in Vancouver. My husband is Quebecois and grew up speaking English and French- and we wanted to do the same in our household. We speak both languages at home and decided to enroll our son in a French immersion school where he is doing wonderfully. He became fluent in less than one year! I think it is a tremendous advantage if you can expose your children to other languages and cultures.

  • lepiedleger

    lepiedleger said 5 years ago

    What an interesting topic! Learning new languages definitely opens your mind! I am from Montreal, Quebec, my mother tongue is french. I learned english at school, which allowed me to make my first trips across canada and get to know a different culture from mine (and to be part of Etsy today!). When I was 10, my mom fell in love my a Chilean guy, so hearing spanish at home for 5 years made it really easy for me to learn it when I finally wanted to, when I was around 20. I started to travel to México and just got addicted, couldn't go back home!! Thenl I met a guy from Uruguay who became my husband.Nnow, we've been living in Uruguay for 7 years and are having a baby in a couple months. I think our child will be of this generation of "children of the world". I am sure after we teach him/her languages and how to keep an open mind and open heart to the world, he/she will teach us a lot! Thank you for sharing everyone!

  • redemptionart

    redemptionart said 5 years ago Featured

    I am native Hawaiian. Sadly, for many years, our native tongue was discouraged. English speaking schools were founded as a way to segregate the families who complied from the families who wanted to preserve the language. Over the years we fought the hard fight and finally in the mid 70s a resurgence of the culture and language occurred. It was no longer acceptable to oppress a people by disconnecting them from their culture. Although we never stopped speaking in Hawaiian phrases and words in our own homes, the fluency of the language had to be re-taught to the next generations. Today, Hawaii is the only state in the nation that boasts has two official languages, Hawaiian and English. On top of this during the sugar plantation days cultures from all over the globe made Hawaii their home resulting in a "pidgin" that is influenced by Hawaiian, Japanese, Filipino, Portuguese and Spanish. This is more interesting to listen to then our actual languages! My children are Hawaiian, Chinese, Chilean and Caucasin. My grandchildren have Filipino, Puerto Rican, Samoan and American Indian added to that!

  • stitchduchess

    stitchduchess said 5 years ago

    I'm African american Jew married to a man who is mixed race Mexican and white. Our daughter, while not fluent in Spanish has great language aptitude and pronunciation gained from shows like Dora but also children's music in Spanish and Hebrew. Music is big in our house and great and fun way to expose children to additional languages. Plus those cd's usually come with translation.

  • JohannesFranciscus

    JohannesFranciscus said 5 years ago

    I am Dutch. Because no one else speaks Dutch but the Dutch and the Belgians and we happen to be a very small country, we have no choice but to learn other languages. In school all children learn Dutch, English, German and French. When I was travelling through South-America I also learned Spanish. The difference between travelling without and with the abbility to communicate with the locals is huge. People are so much more interested in you and your background when you speak their language. You don't even have to be good at it, just that you're taking the effort to try and speak their language is greatly appreciated. And makes your travelling experience so much better!

  • breadandroses2

    breadandroses2 said 5 years ago

    Early childhood is the best and easiest time to learn multiple languages.

  • Iammie

    Iammie said 5 years ago

    Nice story!

  • YarnUiPhoneApp

    YarnUiPhoneApp said 5 years ago

    Really, knowing English and speaking it well I think is the key to success here in the U.S. I'm hearing impaired (two hearing aids) and it frustrates me to no end to have so many people in my city who don't know English at all, at least one of my neighbors has been here at least 10 years (probably more) and she doesn't speak English. I cannot communicate with her beyond 'hi' and 'hello.' I wish she could learn English so we could communicate better. Not only that, she could probably pick up a better-paying job than having an in-home daycare if she could speak English. But that's probably true for many other people here in the U.S....learn to speak English...and your income will increase significantly because there will be more job opportunities.

  • destroymodernart

    destroymodernart said 5 years ago

    I've got a rich cultural background but colonialism meant that the desire to pretend to be british stopped my family passing down languages. My grandfather was Indian, my grandmother was dutch and sri lankan so they could speak Tamil, dutch, various Indian languages, english and Japanese.. and my mother is from Singapore. My mother, myself and siblings can only speak English:(

  • yimmekedesign

    yimmekedesign said 5 years ago

    I speak Dutch, German and English fluently thanks to growing up and living in a multicultural society in Europe. Mu husband is American, I am Dutch and both of our children speak both languages fluently. My youngest son is a flight attendant because he speaks more than one language. My oldest son is learning German now and picks it up like a sponge. I am trying to learn Spanish just because it is so important to know the language in this country. My husband was never exposed to any other language in his youth and despite us speaking in different languages at any given time in our home, he never was able to speak or understand any of them. This really showed me how IMPORTANT it is to expose young children to other languages than English here in the USA. I experienced nothing but great benefits speaking more than one language and I encourage all young parents to not hesitate but expose their kids to other cultures and languages. The more the better and believe me, they will not get confused. Kids are GREAT language learners.

  • charlenesbags

    charlenesbags said 5 years ago

    Thank you for the blog on learning another lanuage. As a senior adult trying to learn Spanish, I know the difficulty it presents after childhood has faded.

  • TheScarfTree

    TheScarfTree said 5 years ago

    You are right kids are "language sponges" and so the best time for them to at least start on another language is now when they are small! They just do it, no thoughts involved, which is quite incredible! It does help to have a 2nd language - I am English was but was taught in Afrikaans in Elementary school (in South Africa) and so it was easy for me to flip between both. Then in high school I did German. Many languages are delicately linked - like Afrikaans it is easy to relate to German, bit of Spanish, Dutch etc! BUT remember this wise saying: IF YOU DON'T USE IT YOU LOSE IT! :) All the best!

  • AdornmentsNYC

    AdornmentsNYC said 5 years ago

    This is a great post - I was just talking with one of my best friends about the charter school where her son is going where they are being taught exclusively in Spanish. (In Colorado) Great read - thanks!

  • minouette

    minouette said 5 years ago

    I'm Canadian. My first language is English, but I had the great advantage of learning French from the age of 3. I'm pretty effectively bilingual, though my French is far from perfect (I live in English Canada). It's been a huge advantage to me. It's so much easier to learn language when you're very young. Trying to learn Japanese at 26 was much harder, but knowing French definitely lets me stumble through with basic communication in other romance languages. I would definitely want my future children to know French too.

  • AyeCHIHUAHUA

    AyeCHIHUAHUA said 5 years ago

    Exceptional! y bien dicho!

  • CottonSeason

    CottonSeason said 5 years ago

    Myself and my husband are English but we now live in Germany and our daughter was born in Germany. Although she is only 18mths and only speaking a few words in English I do worry a bit about how she will pick up the German language. We both speak English at home because unfortunately neither of our German is good enough to teach her correctly. I have found (and still find) learning German very hard, I cant say some of the words properly my mouth just wont make the right sound!!! very frustrating!!! and I dont want to pronounce words incorrectly for my daughter to pick it up wrong. We were advised to speak only our mother tongue at home and then from the age of 3 she will go to kindergarten and hopefully pick up German quickly and easily. I think its a good thing to expose our children to different languages and cultures from a young age and I hope that in the future our daughter may chose to learn more languages.

  • bedouin

    bedouin said 5 years ago

    Great article ~ Our daughter is grown though exposure to culture and art when she was small made a difference in how she interacts in the world as an adult.

  • HouseOfMoss

    HouseOfMoss said 5 years ago

    My dad grew up in Peru and Bolivia, so there was always Spanish being tossed around in our English-speaking household growing up. When I was in 5th and 6th grade, I went to a private school that required Latin– and as a result, I have found many languages accessible. I've nearly mastered Spanish, been taking a good run at French, and dabbled in Italian, Greek, and Arabic. Seeing through the different lenses of language has been one of the great joys of my life.

  • sarlesnatalya

    sarlesnatalya said 5 years ago

    Reading this article makes me thing how many of us are from different places in this amazing world?! I'm Russian myself and i'm so proud of being a mother of a two little girls who will be able to speak two language soon enough. My husband is American and so he does the great job teaching my oldest daughter English. But she still picks up Russian words so much probably because of her grandma is being all around :D what a blessing! I love multicultural families!

  • tiemee

    tiemee said 5 years ago

    I connect with your insightful analogy of using language as a bridge to other cultures. I am proud to say that my 3 year old daughter uses "bomba" exclusively when referring to a balloon. I try to incorporate some Spanish language todos los dias. I love the language and attempt to teach her by reading her books we get at the library en espanol. Gracias for the post!

  • NiceShinyPenny

    NiceShinyPenny said 5 years ago

    I'm American and my husband is English, so our kids will just get an extra set of swear words!

  • BenefitJewelsSupply

    BenefitJewelsSupply said 5 years ago

    I am from the US and fell in love and married a French Canadian and we now live in Montreal. We are expecting our first child and I am thrilled at the prospect of raising a child in a perfectly bilingual environment. What has worked with friends in similar situations is each parent speaking their native tongue so the child will have a clear distinction between the languages from birth. I'm also definitely going to have to up my game of my own French so the little one can't talk behind my back to his friends!

  • studiorandom

    studiorandom said 5 years ago

    I'm Cajun. In my grandparents' generation the school system basically beat their Cajun French out of them. They resolved they would not teach it to their own children. So my parents, having grown up speaking English from day one, did not teach me Cajun either. I've heard similar stories about American Indians. It is a shame because apparently, studies have shown that people who speak at least two languages tend to have higher IQs. Something about learning those multiple languages kind of adds wiring to your brain. And these are valuable resources we're destroying. The Dine'h became code talkers in World War Two because there were no related languages in Europe or Asia, so the Axis powers could not crack the code. My own great-uncle died in Belgium while employed by the Army as a French interpreter. His native understanding of his own language helped him pick up another one. I hope we never have to fight another war in a French-speaking country because we'll be hampered now. And it won't be long, another generation maybe, before the Cajun-language radio stations in Louisiana disappear too.

  • FuzzyPenguinDesigns

    FuzzyPenguinDesigns said 5 years ago

    Dora is a bad trip!! I feel like my 8 month old son is already cooler than I am! My parents raised me in Arkansas (woo! Don't worry. I wear shoes :/ sometimes! :D)! But my husband and I moved and are photographers! Even though he hasn't experienced a lot of language differences … besides our Chilean neighbor Beto trying to pronounce instead like insteed!… he has experienced a wide array of people from different races to different sexual preferences! He's also my little skater (so I hope) which already makes him cooler than I was at 8 months old! Great post!! Even better message!

  • KatesSummer

    KatesSummer said 5 years ago

    What a cool article, your little boy is very lucky :) I grew up on the south east coast of South Africa, where 80% of the people speak Xhosa. My nanny was Xhosa speaking and so I learnt to speak the language at a young age. Unfortunately, I went to an English speaking school and have since lost most of the language I knew. I would suggest ensuring Miles has the oppurtunity to speak French through his whole childhood, lest he should lose the language as I did.

  • WhatADream

    WhatADream said 5 years ago

    I'm having my first born in November- I've already bought a few French children's books and a music CD with French childrens songs. It's also nice that you set the language to French in Disney movies :)

  • OpusMuse

    Nicole from OpusMuse said 4 years ago

    Growing up in multicultural Singapore, we're used to hearing different spoken languages & exposed to different culture everyday. That is what's normal to us and I don't even think about it until I read your article. Majority of Singaporeans speak at least two languages (English & mother tongue) and even one or more dialects. I'm a Singaporean Chinese and now have a mixed heritage household since I married to an Australian. When our child is born, we gave her both an English and Chinese name so she can always relate to her mixed heritage roots. It also helps that the school system in Singapore, encourages English to be compulsory including taking up a mother tongue language, and it's worked wonderfully for our child. I recently read an article/study on children who grew up speaking different languages, their brain is wired differently to one who is only exposed to one language. Their brain is able to process different things at the same time which is essential when you're multilingual. This in turn increases their problem solving and multitasking ability. Very interesting. With languages, I find the best way to learn is through daily exposure. Other than learning the basics in school, I would speak Mandarin with my child at home and she also gets to practice when she visits grandma & grandpa weekly. :)

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