Growing Up Global Read-Along: Greet Your Friend

Growing up Global Read Along

We’re back for the second instalment of our expat parenting book read-along with Chapter 2 of Growing up Global: Greet your friend (you can find the Introduction and Chapter 1 here).

We’re a couple of days behind schedule due to birthday celebrations (someone turned 4! Already!) and The Baby Who Refused to Nap for an ENTIRE DAY! I’m just lucky he has a very sunny disposition, otherwise it could have been disastrous!

Anyway, back on subject, I finally completed Chapter 2 of Growing up Global. I’m finding this book quite an easy read despite being a bit behind; I’ll blame that on my procrastinating personality.

Chapter 2: Greet your Friend deals mostly with language and, as you can guess from the title, sociocultural conventions regarding greetings around the World. Once more, I found this book to be very USA-centric, but I guess that is the general audience for it, so let’s leave it at that.

The first thing the author tackles hit a bit close to home with me – getting your child used to saying hello (and generally greeting) people. I’m going to publicly admit here, before having kids I was one of those people who thought “how rude! MY child is going to be brought up to be more polite and greet others (a simple hello – I never thought you should force kisses/hugs/etc.)”. Well, I’m eating my words. The author points out how, especially American children, are not used to greeting people they meet. I agree with her and have always emphasized this with my children. all went well until around the time Sprout 1 turned 2 and suddenly decided he was shy (yes, I’m aware it’s not exactly a decision – you get my point). Now I have a 4-year-old who not only will most probably NOT say hello, you might be greeted with a scowl as well. And there you have it. I honestly don’t know what to do. I tell him it’s polite to greet people and, at a minimum, not try to scare them. I’m hoping it will pass with time and was hopeful Ms. Tavangar would have some tips other than reading one of Emily Post‘s books on etiquette for children, but I do realise this isn’t the focus of the book. I’m open to any of your suggestions/tips though!

After getting into the habit of saying hello, Homa suggests learning greetings outside the children’s own culture, giving tips such as watching for cues and showing respect when you aren’t familiar with the proper way to greet someone. This chapter also has a list of general principles for greeting people according to continent. A good way to practise would be looking at the map with your child and talking about different ways people greet each other, as well as role-playing.

I’ve personally always found greetings in European countries to be a bit confusing. Being Portuguese, I’m obviously well aware of the rule of giving 2 kisses to everyone if you are a female and 2 kisses to women and a handshake to men if you are a male. In other countries, Belgium included, it’s not so straightforward. After living here for over 6 years now, I still don’t have it straight and all the other nationalities you encounter just seem to add to the confusion, so I’ve made a mental note to more purposefully educate myself on this.

All throughout the chapter there is a big focus on getting to know people of different cultures and ethnicities as individuals and not stereotypes, adjusting your behaviour accordingly.

There is an entire part on activities to do with children divided by over 10 and under 10, as well as many resources, both paid and free.  A few I found interesting for younger children are Muzzy, by the BBC, Beth Manners’ Fun French for Kids ages 2-6, Putomayo’s Playground collection of world music for kids (we have a few of these – really good) and looking for Listmania lists on Amazon by relevant topics, such as Father & son’s social justice picture books for children list.

How about you? Do your kids greet people? Can they do so in different languages?

Disclaimer: Amazon links are affiliate links. If you purchase the book directly via these links, a small amount of the purchase price eventually makes its way to me. So if you would use Amazon anyway to get your books, please use my aStore. However, if you are lucky enough to have a local, independent bookshop stocking this book, please pay them a visit if you would like to buy it!

Expat parenting book read-along: Growing up Global

Expat parenting book read-along: Growing Up Global

Growing Up Global: Raising Children to Be at Home in the World, by Homa Sabet Tavengar

Life off-line has kept me away from the blog this past week. I’ve been busy preparing things for the BCT’s Nearly New Sale, plus we had a quick trip to the Emergency room with Sprout 1 (nothing serious, just a cut on the head after falling off a chair with a book in his hand and landing head first against our side-table), and now the snow. OMG the SNOW! Our balcony was covered almost to the height of Sprout 1’s waist (he’s almost 4)! Beautiful, really, BUT WHERE IS SPRING? Ok, rant over.

I’m back now and I have lots of things planned here! Can’t wait to get it all ready.

First up, our Expat parenting book read-along. The winner of the poll (with 50% of votes) was Growing Up Global: Raising Children to Be at Home in the World, by Homa Sabet Tavengar.

This book has 9 chapters, plus and Introduction and Conclusion. I’m thinking of doing one Chapter per week, plus one for the Conclusion, which means this series will run for 10 weeks. I’ll include the Introduction with Chapter 1: Be a Friend.

I propose “meeting up” on Wednesdays, when I’ll post about the book and you can feel free to join in in the comments. To give those who wish to read-along time to get the book and start reading, the read-along will begin on April 3rd.

I have the Kindle Edition, even though I don’t actually own a kindle, because I like reading on my iPad or iPhone (great for those times when I keep my kids company to fall asleep at night). You can get the Kindle app for other smart-phones and tablets as well.

What are you waiting for? Let’s start reading!

Disclaimer: Amazon links are affiliate links. If you purchase the book directly via these links, a small amount of the purchase price eventually makes its way to me. So if you would use Amazon anyway to get your books, please use my aStore, or the above link but for the Kindle edition. However, if you are lucky enough to have a local, independent bookshop stocking this book, please pay them a visit if you would like to buy it!


Expat parenting book read-along

I’m an avid book reader, both fiction and non-fiction, and as such, I have a collection of more parenting books than I (or my husband) would care to admit. It’s just how I work – I have questions, I read up on them. And read. And read. You get my point.

Anyhow, I thought it would be a nice idea to share relevant books I’m reading with you, my dear readers, and I would love to invite you to read along with me. Or, if you haven’t the time or inclination, maybe you’d just like to read the Cliffs Notes* version?

Obviously, you don’t have to be an expat yourself to join in, I just figured “multicultural, multilingual parenting book read-along” would be too big, so there you have it.

Expat parenting book read-along

So this is how it would work: Today I’m going to propose three books and I would love for you to help me choose one for our read-along. I will give those of you who would like to actually read-along 3 or 4 weeks to buy the book and read the first part. Would this be enough? Too much? I would then post about it every week or every fortnight (I just love that word) until we’re done, and you can join in in the comments if you’re so inclined.

These are my first suggestions, but if you have another in mind, please do share in the comments.

Here are the nominees, in alphabetical order:

Book 1 – Growing Up Global: Raising Children to be at Home in the World, by Homa Sabet Tavangar

Growing Up Global - Raising Children to be at Home in the World, by Homa Sabet Tavangar

Growing Up Global: Raising Children to be at Home in the World, by Homa Sabet Tavangar

From Amazon’s book description:

In today’s increasingly interconnected world, how do we prepare our children to succeed and to become happy, informed global citizens? A mother of three, Homa Sabet Tavangar has spent her career helping governments develop globally oriented programs and advising businesses on how to thrive abroad. In Growing Up Global, Tavangar shares with all of us her “parenting toolbox” to help give our children a vital global perspective. (…) Growing Up Global is a book that parents, grandparents, and teachers can turn to again and again for inspiration and motivation as they strive to open the minds of children everywhere.

Book 2 – Growing up with Three Languages: Birth to Eleven, by Xiao-lei Wang

Growing Up with Three Languages: Birth to Eleven

Growing Up with Three Languages: Birth to Eleven

From Amazon’s book description:

This book is for parents who live in a foreign country and intend to raise their children in their own heritage language(s). It offers helpful suggestions for this challenging situation and providesuseful strategies in the daily interactions between parents and children.

Book 3 – Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds, by David C. Pollock and Ruth van Reke

Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds, by David C. Pollock and Ruth van Reken

Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds, by David C. Pollock and Ruth van Reken

From Amazon’s book description:

Filled with real-life anecdotes, Third Culture Kids examines the nature of the TCK experience and its effect on maturing, developing a sense of identity and adjusting to one s passport country upon return. For many third culture kids, this book will be their first opportunity to discover that they share a common heritage with countless others around the world. Highlighting dramatic changes brought about by instant communication and new mobility patterns, the new edition shows how the TCK experience is becoming increasingly common and valuable. The authors also expand the coverage to include cross-cultural kids, children of bi-racial or bi-cultural parents, immigrants and international adoptees all of this bringing hidden diversity to our world and challenging our old notions of identity and home .

So, are you in?

*From Wikipedia: CliffsNotes (formerly Cliffs Notes, originally Cliff’s Notes and often, erroneously, CliffNotes) are a series of student study guides available primarily in the United States. The guides present and explain literary and other works in pamphlet form or online. Detractors of the study guides claim they let students bypass reading the assigned literature. The company claims to promote the reading of the original work, and does not view the study guides as a substitute for that reading.

Disclaimer: Amazon links are affiliate links. If you purchase the book via this link a small amount of the purchase price eventually makes its way to me. So if you would use Amazon anyway to get your books, please use my aStore, but if you are lucky enough to have a local, independent bookshop please pay them a visit if you would like to buy these books!

Babel Kid

All you have to do is step out onto just about any street in Brussels and you’ll easily hear a few different languages in just a matter of minutes. When you look at the expat community, you won’t have a hard time finding people fluent in 4 or more languages, which personally always leaves me in awe. It was a no-brainer for us, living in such a multicultural hub like Brussels, that our kids were going to be multilingual.

We are a multilingual family. I am native bilingual in English and Portuguese, and I’m becoming fluent in French as well. I understand a few others, both spoken and written, but can’t really speak them. My husband R is native Portuguese, and is fluent in English, French and Spanish, and has limited knowledge of a few more. Right from the start, we settled on the “one parent one language” approach for bringing up our Sprouts to be bilingual. I speak (almost) exclusively in English, R speaks (almost) exclusively in Portuguese. Since we have Portuguese as a common language, and since it’s the one the Sprouts have least access to, we use it as our family language. What this looks like in action is me speaking English to the kids, them speaking English to me and we all speak Portuguese with R. Dinner-table conversation is, for the most part, in Portuguese. Notice there’s no French or Flemish here. That’s because it’s neither of our native languages, and therefore, we’re really not in a place to pass it on correctly. The Sprouts will pick up French, and eventually Flemish, from their environment.

Older Sprout is now just over 3 and a half years old, an age considered to be a real turning point in multilingualism. It’s the age when children are truly able to separate languages, having a big enough working vocabulary in their native tongues. It’s truly wonderful to hear him now, and to see the intentional “work” we have been doing show it’s fruits. It’s also nice to be able to show doubting family and friends that indeed children are capable of learning multiple languages from birth, and no it doesn’t confuse or delay them.

At just over 3 and a half, Sprout 1’s dominant language is clearly (American) English. He is perfectly fluent (for a kid his age, anyway) and capable of having entire conversations without resorting to words in any other language. His accent is clearly American. His second language at the moment is Portuguese. He’s fluent, but many times uses English grammar rules and conjugates some verbs as if they were English. Funny enough, I remember doing this myself as a kid, more out of laziness than anything else really. He also, oddly, has a strong American accent in Portuguese. I can’t really explain why, because I don’t and he learns Portuguese from Dad anyway, but the truth is it’s there. I have to real perception of his level of French. He doesn’t speak it to us, other than a word that slips in here or there. We know he speaks it at school because his teachers say he does and seem to understand him. I’ve overheard him speaking with friends who don’t share one of his other languages as well. Hilariously, he seems to think he can just grab a word in Portuguese and use the French rasping r sounds and call it a French word. He’ll sometimes try with an English word as well. Cracks me up!!! Sometimes he’ll slip in a word in a language other than the one he’s using and crack up saying “did you hear that Mommy? I made a mistake! I sad (blank) instead of (blank)!”. Cracks me up.

I expect his language dominance to change to French over time, although it does sadden me a bit. I’m ever so curious to know what language my sons will be speaking between themselves! I always spoke in English with my sister, even though we only ever spoke Portuguese to our parents.

It’s funny hearing him speak about languages as well, and he likes making up his own. He’s very aware of others speaking different languages, of languages spoken in different countries and even within a country. He frequently asks questions about why so and so speaks such and such language. It’s really something I don’t think he would be so aware of anywhere else. And we don’t even speak that many languages! I know other kids who speak 2 different languages to their parents, have another language their parents speak between themselves which they pick up passively, learn another at crèche, and then yet another in school! Wow!

How about you? I’d love to hear from other multilingual families and how you handle the dynamics of speaking different languages!

Fans of Flanders

This post was originally written for the Fans of Flanders website, where you can find me and many other great contributing bloggers. Go check them out!

A new school year

Wow, a whole month has gone by since “la rentrée”. I can hardly believe it!
Things have been going quite well this year to everyone’s relief around here. If you’ve been following along, you may recall my struggle to find an adequate school we could afford, and, later on, having issues with the school Sprout 1 actually ended up attending. Well, we’ve finally found our school, and what a difference!

He’s attending a public school with a child-centred pedagogy and an active learning approach. It’s wonderful (albeit suffering from what most public schools suffer – older buildings and such) and Sprout 1 has been going in (and coming out) with a smile from day one. Only exception was a day when I was running a bit late (2min maybe) and he thought I was leaving him for the afternoon and without a lunch. Poor thing – cue mama guilt!

It’s been wonderful to be able to walk to school (he goes on his balance bike) instead of having to drive. And the peace of mind knowing he’s in respecting hands.

So what went wrong last year? Hard to pinpoint the main reason really. The teacher was definitely part of the problem, as she seemed to have absolutely no love for what she was doing. But I think it was more than that. He was too young in my opinion. 32 months is too soon to start nursery school, or preschool, or whatever you want to call it, especially in the format his former teacher was doing it, i.e. sit down, be quiet and do as told. It made me very sad, especially since we had so “carefully” picked his school (from the available to us possibilities) which was supposed to be project based, very environmentally focused, etc. I cannot stress how much more important it is to meet the teachers than the school director (Duh!!!). We came to learn the hard way that no matter how committed a school director is to this or that, ultimately it’s up to the teachers. Sure, they were working on projects… but it was really sad to see how little work the children themselves actually did on those projects. Sprout 1 would come home with something “he” made in school and proceed to inform us madame did this and that and all he did was add some dots or glue some stickers. Ugh. I even once saw her holding the kids hands, one by one, sticking an inked stamp in their little fists and pressing it to the paper. Never a good sign. I feel this has actually put him off to doing many art projects since. Sigh… When he would cry, the staff would just say stop crying and you are not beautiful when you cry, stop making a fuss. Broke my heart. Funny thing is, most parents thought this was ok and that it was actually a very good school with a caring teacher. Cultural difference maybe? Just goes to show not everyone is looking for the same things in a school.

Well, I’m glad to report this school is totally different. I am so happy about it, but most importantly, Sprout 1 is happy and looks forward to go to school each day. He gets to be a 3,5 old little boy, not just someone who has to be formatted into an obedient child whose creativity and personality is not respected.

Another issue other than age and bad luck with teachers that I’m sure played a big part was the language factor. Sprout 1 spoke English and Portuguese, but didn’t speak any French. It must be quite scary to be in a strange, uncaring place and not be able to communicate! Oh, my heart hurts just thinking about what he was put through… Poor thing. I did try really hard to get him acquainted with French, taking him to Les Maisons Vertes (which were great, by the way) story times in French, etc., but the big issue with being an English speaker in Brussels is that everyone is so keen to switch over to English once they realise it’s your mother tongue. It’s really very kind of people, but not so useful when you actually want to practice one of the country’s languages!!! I’m wondering what we can do about that for Sprout 2, although I’m sure his brother and friends will be some help in that department!

And on another note, see that backpack in the picture? It’s still the one I made him last year. I gave him the choice to get a new one and even let him pick from these really cool ones, but despite all it’s faults, he wanted the mama made one. Makes this mama’s heart sing. He did choose this lunchbox though, even though he isn’t staying for lunch yet.

How has the new school year started for you? Anyone else think 2,5 is too young to start preschool? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

The 100 languages of children

Today I’m sharing a poem I’ve come across recently (Sorry, can’t credit where. I tried looking but can’t find the original post.) and that’s been playing through my mind as we’re currently having issues with preschool. It’s been tough on Sprout, and on us as well. I honestly don’t know what the best course of action for this year is. Pulling him out of school brings along issues of its own, plus we otherwise have a hard time exposing him to French language sufficiently given we’re in a very International, predominantly English speaking milieu. It’s such a pity the schools I absolutely loved (namely Montessori and Roots and Wings) are either obscenely expensive or only English language.

The Hundred Languages of Children

The child is made of one hundred.
The child has
a hundred languages
a hundred hands
a hundred thoughts
a hundred ways of thinking
of playing, of speaking.

A hundred.

Always a hundred
ways of listening
of marveling, of loving
a hundred joys
for singing and understanding
a hundred worlds
to discover
a hundred worlds
to invent
a hundred worlds
to dream.

The child has
a hundred languages
(and a hundred hundred hundred more)
but they steal ninety-nine.
The school and the culture
separate the head from the body.
They tell the child:
to think without hands
to do without head
to listen and not to speak
to understand without joy
to love and to marvel
only at Easter and at Christmas.

They tell the child:
to discover the world already there
and of the hundred
they steal ninety-nine.

They tell the child:
that work and play
reality and fantasy
science and imagination
sky and earth
reason and dream
are things
that do not belong together.

And thus they tell the child
that the hundred is not there.
The child says:
No way. The hundred is there.

-Loris Malaguzzi
Founder of the Reggio Emilia Approach

Reading matters

This post was written as a submission to the Bilingual blog Carnival hosted at Multilingual Mama.

We enjoy reading in our home. I have all sorts of reading material scattered throughout the house (no, I’m not messy, ahem, I just like to be able to pick something up to read no matter where I am) and R reads a lot mostly on his commutes. In fact this what you can see from where I’m sitting right now:

There are even books on the stairs! So it’s no surprise the Sprout has a ton of books already, cleverly scattered throughout the house as well. Books by the potty, check. Books by the bed, check. In the family room, check. Upstairs, check. Yep, he can pick up one of his books pretty much anywhere in the house, bathroom included (hey, it has really helped with learning to use the potty!). Needless to say, since we ARE a multilingual family, living in a multilingual community, we have books in more than one language. We have some in English, Portuguese, Spanish and French. The same goes for Sprout (except Spanish).

I have recently finished reading the Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease and I highly recommend it to any parent. We’ve always read aloud to Sprout, since he was a newborn and most of our family thought we were nuts, so this book is really preaching to the choir. I did know about the benefits of reading aloud to young children, although we did it mostly for fun and bonding, however this book has such a wealth of information on how important reading aloud really is, how to go about it and great suggestions for read-alouds by age and even topic. I think this is truly a must have book. The book points out something we already knew, although not totally aware of how much – the contribution of reading aloud to language acquisition. I realise Sprout has a wonderful comprehension of even some difficult vocabulary thanks in a big degree to reading.

Although this book doesn’t really address reading for multilinguals (though it does make a brief reference to reading and English as a second language), this book really got me thinking on reading and multilingual language acquisition, as well as using books to better understand different cultures.

Sprout is bilingual from birth, and as you may have read here before, we use the one parent, one language approach while speaking Portuguese to each other (parents that is). We tend to do the same thing with books. I read the English books and R reads the Portuguese books. Easy peasy. Except, what do you do when your little one asks you to read a book in the other parent’s language? Up until now, it’s been fairly easy – we grab any book and translate freely as we read. But as he starts enjoying stories with more words, rhymes and poems, it’s beginning to get a bit harder. For the most part we still translate freely, but there are a few (mostly in English) like Mother Goose where Papa Sprout will say it’s a book for Mama to read. I wonder how others handle this, especially as they get older. I suppose it will get easier for him to understand that Mama reads certain books and Papa reads others. Part of the issue though is the difficulty to get good books in Portuguese here. Most of his books are in English because it’s so easy (and fairly cheap) to buy them online or at Waterstones, Stonemanor, etc. and to borrow them from the Children’s Library. Much harder for Portuguese and no library I know of. Plus, I am more familiar with English language books for kids and usually will prefer the original language. I have seen some families that have the same book in 2 (or even more ) languages, but the penny pincher in me has a hard time wrapping her head around that idea. Plus, does it make that much sense before he can actually read?

Another issue is books in French. Who shall read them before he can? We have a few and make frequent visits to our local library, but then we just translate them to our language. It’s a pity, because it’s very hard to do with books with more words and jargon we’re not so familiar with (not that it’s very hard to make out in children’s books though, but still I have come across a couple – and the rhymes are totally off).What we’ve just recently started doing is going to story time in French so Sprout has more exposure to the French language. Our local library has readings for the over 3 crowd only, but our local ONE has readings for the 0-3 crowd once a month. Not very much, I know! We went once, and although Sprout was more interested in the play kitchen they had, at least he only heard French around him. This week I have also discovered one of my favourite French bookshops in Brussels, Filigranes (they have a small English section too) has weekly readings Sunday mornings at 10.30. We went today and it was perfect! The reader was much better than the one from ONE, the bookshop is lovely to be in and has a wonderful little café and Sprout actually sat through most of it – until he had to go wee 😉 And of course, we couldn’t leave without adding this fantastic book to our library (Le grand livre des mots français/anglais by Richard Scarry – I had actually been looking for it in English, this is even better! Score!):

I’d love to hear how you handle reading and multilingualism! Please feel free to share in the comments!

“Schools” for Sprout – international or not?

This post was written as a submission to the Bilingual blog Carnival hosted at Multilingual living.

Our big boy is 18mo already!!!

I know it seems a bit early to be discussing schools. Sprout is only 18mo, but I will go back to work someday (whether from home or not) and he will have to go to either some sort of daycare or “school”. In Belgium, children start pre-school, known as “maternelle” at around 2 1/2 yrs which seems awfully early to me! It’s not mandatory, but it seems hard to find an alternative form of daycare at that age.
Anyway, we have to figure out what to do… We are lucky enough to be living in a city with a significant expat population and a good deal of alternatives to hand.

So what are our alternatives?

We have the Belgian public school system with schools in French or Flemish. It seems to be mostly play and art, but still seems very formal to me, if you know what I mean. It is a very traditional group setting and I’m not sure that’s best for a young toddler. Plus, it’s (in our case) in French, which can either be good or bad, I’m not sure. We speak English and Portuguese at home and he has only occasional contact with French speakers, so I don’t know if there will be an adjustment issue at such a young age.Plus, the better schools seem to have waiting lists. And did I mention it seems quite formal for a 2 1/2yo? The BCT has an interest group on Belgian Schools, so will have to contact them for more info as well.

Then we have the private schools, of which Montessori would be my preference. I absolutely love Montessori, and we use many principles of the philosophy at home already. Plus, there would be the advantage of a bilingual programme (English/French) which I’m sure would make life easier because sprout wouldn’t have such a hard time making himself understood. BUT (and this is a very big BUT for us), I see on one of the available Montessori schools’ website that fees are almost €10000/year for mornings only! There is no way we can do that on 1 1/2 incomes. I doubt we could do it on 2… I really can’t understand these prices. I know the school is supposed to be good, and they have made quite an investment, but this just seem too elitist to me. The other one I found is a bit cheaper at €6000-€7000.

There are other private options, such as Waldorf Steiner schools, but in Flemish only, so we don’t want to mix in yet another language which neither parents know. There are also good Catholic schools, but we’d rather go non-confessional.

Then we have all “International” schools, such as the ISB, the British School, St. Paul’s, the European School, etc. The only one that really interests us there is the European School. There are International schools in various languages here, but again, we’re not interested in one we don’t speak. The English speaking schools seem to be very good, although too expensive. Plus, how do we then manage to teach Sprout proper French and Portuguese? I remember all too clearly the afternoons I spent in Portuguese school while growing up, knowing all my friends were out playing. Our languages and heritage are very important to us, but is that really the best way?

So, the European school seems very enticing to us. It has a very good reputation, the high school later on gives access to Universities all across Europe, plus Sprout would be learning in 3 languages (or more if he so chooses) – Portuguese, English and French. It’s not cheap – we heard secondary is somewhere around €9000 – but all in all it seems like a good option and I think we can afford it.Although I do think they only admit from 4yo (not that I mind 🙂 )… will have to look into it better.

But still, I worry… will we be depriving our son of truly integrating in Belgian culture if we pick the European school? Will we be limiting his options and pushing him away from his heritage languages if we put him in a Belgian school? How long will we stay here? I know I can’t predict all the variables, and I know no choice is perfect.I guess we really have to visit the schools and see where he’ll fit in best.

I would love to know: what schooling options have you chosen/will you choose? Why?

Belated handmade b-day present

I made this sweet little baby book from Sew Liberated (I love this book! So many more projects I want to make! And no, it’s not all about appliqué) for sprout’s birthday. It was fairly easy to make, even by someone who’s last attempt at embroidery was in 8th grade!!! However, it was rather time-consuming and I miscalculated how long it would take me… I finished it this weekend and it’s been a hit with Alex 🙂

I changed the book slightly to make it bilingual Portuguese/English (I figured French would be a bit much!!!), so the title is different and the placement of the words throughout is different as well.

All in all I’m quite happy with it, despite my laziness kicking in with the finishing stitches… And I still want to print a little message for Alex on fabric (I don’t think I can stand the thought of embroidering the whole message!!) and attaching it to the back cover.

A multilingual Sprout

This post is part of the Bilingual for Fun Carnival, hosted by Bilingual For Fun.

Shortly after Sprout started walking about a month ago, he also started to actually say some words. He has been saying “mama” for quite a while, although I’m not exactly sure he’s referring to me or just asking for comfort… He clearly says “papá” in Portuguese. Other words he says are “bye-bye” (said “baba” and referring to going out, not to people leaving) “ball” (“ba”) and “dá” (as in “gimme”, although he sometimes uses a similar sound to point “there”). He has said “tiger” (“tiga”) once referring to his favourite stuffed animal, and I’m glad I had a witness because otherwise I would’ve thought I dreamt it! Clearly he’s staring to speak English. Which is normal because he spends most of the day with me. However he does understand both fairly equal. In funny way sometimes! Like when daddy asks him to get his “sapatos” (shoes) to go out, he always gets daddy’s, but when I say get your shoes, he’ll bring his!

I’ve been asked many times what we are doing regarding languages. Both me and R are Portuguese, although I was born and lived in the US until I was 12 and am bilingual. It’s only natural we speak Portuguese to each other, although I must admit I mix in quite a lot of English, especially since Alex was born. Our arrangement consists basically of one parent, one language. I only speak English to Alex (although I have a hard time doing so around Portuguese speakers because I feel I’m being rude!) and Rod only speaks Portuguese. We both speak Portuguese to each other. Outside the home, he has contact mostly with English (both by native and non-native speakers) and French. I never worried much about him picking up all these languages. That’s one of the good thing about living in Brussels – it’s so multicultural. A real melting pot where it is quite common (especially among expats) to see couples with different cultures and languages with their children who speak various languages from an early age. Being bilingual myself, I know firsthand how it is to grow up with more than one language. I’m fluent in both, although at varying levels. For instance, I feel my English never really “grew up” once I moved to Portugal. On the other hand, I feel I can only express certain ideas adequately in English. I never considered writing this blog in Portuguese (although I did consider doing both). I think in both languages and I can switch easily between them. However, I also know my Portuguese wouldn’t be nearly as good had I not lived and studied in Portugal.

I’m really curious to see Sprouts language develop. Will he have my American accent? Will he have a French accent? I also wonder where he’ll grow up. We plan on staying here for the forseeable future, but not sure if that will be for life.
Considering the amount of parenting books I’ve read (I really should post about them!) it’s amazing I haven’t read anything about multilingualism. I’m thinking about getting this book. I’ve heard very good things about it. I’ve also looked for information on and I’ve also been reading the blogging Carnivals on bilingualism. There seems to be more information out for bilingual children than for children with 3 or more languages, but I’ll keep looking! Please drop a comment if you have any good resources.