Multilingualism in the family: living with more than one language

Living with more than one language can be very rewarding. This is especially true for families who have moved countries. It helps them to balance maintaining old ways of life with the new. However in everyday life, living with several languages can be quite complicated. Languages are connected to feelings, people and places, and they can have many different meanings.

For families, moving between different languages can be tricky. It can make the dynamic in families quite challenging. Parents will have ideas about the languages they want to use at home and children will not always follow these ideas. They will bring in their own ideas. This can led to tensions and conflicts.

As a parent you need to know that you are not alone. Many families face these situations at home. Sometimes you might feel that it would be easier to give up on your heritage language.

What helps children’s language development in general is if young children hear the languages parents are comfortable and competent with at home. Talking in your strongest language with you child has a number of advantages:

  • It means that the child will have good quality language experiences at home;
  • Being able to communicate with you child in the language you feel comfortable with will make interactions and relationships easier – especially as your child gets older;
  • In addition, if you don’t pass on to your child something that is as important to you as your language, this can feel as a loss.

If you only speak your heritage language at home as a family, you might be worried that your child will struggle when starting school. Research shows that strong first language skills help children to learn the second language. At the same time, to become bilingual, children need to hear and use both languages.

Themes: {:en}Promoting Multilingualism in the Family{:}{:it}Promuovere il multilinguismo nella famiglia{:} and Living with more than one language

Resource type: Did you know?

Tags: bilingual families, bilingualism, multilingual families, multilingualism, and parenting

Age range: all age groups

Available in: English