As a multilingual family we love to celebrate other multilingual families. I feel we can all learn from each other in raising a multilingual family. This week meet Olga and her family and hear how she passes on her culture to her children.. So over to Olga.
We are a family of five, living in the UK, West Yorkshire. My name is Olga and I’m originally from Russia. My husband Richard is a British-born Jamaican. I’m a teacher of English and German as well as an interpreter and simply the person who loves life. My husband is a musician so he spends a lot of time travelling. We have three amazing mixed-race kids.
Keano, age 9, was born in Russia and has lived there for his first three years before we moved to England. Teanna, age 4, was born here in the UK and is a very vibrant girl. Ronomi, 6 months old, was also born here and is a very lovely cuddly baby.
All our kids are bilingual. Well, apart from Ronomi who hasn’t started speaking yet. At home we speak two languages on a daily basis – Russian and English and sometimes my husband speaks Jamaican Patois.
“You live a new life for every new language you speak” Czech proverb.
When our first child was born we sort of used “one parent-one language” approach but Russian became the “dominant” language because of my son growing up in a Russian-speaking environment and so, when we moved to England, he struggled with English at first when he started nursery. Then I decided to use both languages to make sure he developed equal language skills in both English and Russian and expanded his English vocabulary so he wouldn’t have any difficulties in school. We would read books in both languages, listen to audiobooks, watch TV in both languages, talk to friends and relatives from both family sides.
When our daughter was born we sort of stuck to the same routine – me speaking Russian and English and my husband – English and Partois. Though Teanna took more time to start babbling she still did all her best to speak two languages at the same time.
Both Keano and Teanna sometimes mix two languages in the same sentences. But I noticed it only happens when they are talking to me as they know that I would still understand them whereas with their dad they would speak only English or a bit of Partois without even slightest effort to switch into Russian.
At the moment me and Keano are trying to learn basic Japanese. He finds it easy to understand grammar and has no problem pronouncing words. I suppose that’s one of the advantages of being bilingual – the ability to easily grasp different languages.
At the moment we as a family are producing the series of videos for Russian-English bilingual kids on Russian history. Keano offered his help to narrate them.
Learning a language is not just about knowing the words and phrases. It’s also learning about the culture of the people who speak it, their history, traditions.