yes, do I ever wish I grew up in a multilingual home! Fulfilling my dream of an international career and seeing the world, forced me through the struggle and embarrassment of learning languages as an adult. The only upside, with each new language it got easier.
Even so, I was very close to not raising my first girl multilingually at all, because I didn’t find my native tongue, Swedish, a very useful language. But, when we visited her grand-parents the first time, and I saw her play with her cousins, I realized that an important link to her past would be completely lost if she couldn’t speak Swedish. So, at nearly one year old we started on her road to multilingualism.
Then, while researching bilingualism, I realized that two or three languages wouldn’t really matter to her. It was simply up to me to provide sufficient exposure and need for those languages. So, why not add Spanish as well, although no one in our family speaks it? Living in the USA, I thought it would really be a shame not to tap into the proliferation here of that beautiful language.
However, deciding to raise my children multilingually also raised a lot of questions in my mind, and I read everything I could get my hands on, and then some. But, I still missed a focal point — everything was fragmented and not quite up to date. What I found addressed some issues but not others, and most importantly it lacked a forum for families to share their ideas, thoughts and experiences with each other. Because, going through the ups and downs of raising multilingual children myself, I know first hand that it isn’t exactly something you can discuss over the fence with your neighbor, or even at a baby-and-me group.
The fact that my oldest daughter chats in three languages is such a thrill, and I’m positive she’ll regard it as one of her greatest assets in life. Hearing her, and understanding the mysteries I helped her unlock, I felt compelled to share my insights with others. Particularly, since I often doubted that this whole multilingualism thing would work out at all — and concluded that other parents in this situation probably have similar questions and concerns. So, if I fail utterly at teaching my children anything for the rest of their lives, at least I can rest assured that they’ll have three languages to fall back on.
Being intimately involved in starting the Scandinavian School in San Francisco only added fuel to the fire. I have enjoyed talking to countless other immersion schools, parents and teachers about all things multilingual. And, most amazingly, I’ve seen so many kids develop into confident polyglots and it absolutely knocks my socks off every time.
If you too wish you knew another language, why not at least give your child that amazing gift? I sincerely hope that this site helps you raising your children with more than one language while they are still young. And before you know it, they’ll suddenly speak different languages as if it was the most common thing in the world.
I look forward to hearing from you, and best of luck in your multilingual endeavors.
PS. Please share your stories. Successes or setbacks, hilarious or awkward moments, questions, comments or suggestions — we can all learn from each other’s experience!