Category: Mother Tongues stories

mt stories

“Un cane da wohnt vicino Haus” or the funny side of bilingual parenting

Years ago, at university when I was studying speech therapy, I attended a class about bilingualism. We had to read different research papers on bilingualism and presented the outcomes to the group, and I thought it would be nice to have some not research-based insights, too.

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What have I learned over 5 years of raising a bilingual child in Ireland?

I have learned that a positive attitude is a key and by saying that I mean me maintaining my positive attitude in this process of raising her with two languages as well as supporting my daughter in building her positive reflection on her own bilingualism and her ability to speak Polish and English.

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mother tongues stories

Communication and relationships

mother tongues stories


We are a small family of three. I am a French mother living in Dublin since my teenage years, and with my Irish partner, we have a daughter. I see my ability to ensure she speaks French as a gift that I would be selfish to keep to myself.

mother_tonguesThe technical side of being bilingual is useful of course: being able to settle in various countries, being able to learn new languages with perhaps a little more ease, having more chances of finding a job. But for me, the most important lesson is to make my child aware that despite all having different tongues, we are all humans and we can all communicate.
I feel that children who grow up without hearing other languages are less likely to approach others in the playground and they are more reticent to communicate with foreign children and therefore are more reticent as adults.

My favourite moment was witnessing my daughter play when she was a toddler (and only speaking French) with a handful of bilingual and trilingual children. None of them spoke the same language, yet they had no problem at all to communicate and have fun with each other. I feel that Dublin is the best setting for this, as it is swarming with the wealth of a myriad of first-generation immigrants.

In a paradoxical way, I think bilingualism transcends the need for language as it encourages people to communicate rather than speak. 

Author: Emilie Akoka


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mother tongues stories

My family’s adventures in bilingualism


We are a French family
. A mum, a dad and three girls. All born in France, we settled in Dublin nearly two years ago when our daughters were 3 months, 3 years and 6 years.
We decided to go on this adventure in order to learn English and broaden our horizons. We have always thought of bilingualism as a gift, a way to open our minds and a tool for new discoveries.

We all found our spot in this new world at our own pace. We have discovered that beyond the positive aspects of learning the language, bilingualism has provided us with a new window out of which we can observe our children and both our languages English and French have become a fundamental part of our family.
Language is often part of our daily conversations. We reflect on the meaning of phrases and metaphors, we think about how we choose words and we discuss pronunciation. We encourage and help each other.

Now that we live in Ireland our challenge is to keep a strong link with the French language while learning the language of our host country, in which our children live their lives every day. The new country, its language and its culture have become part of the children’s lives and of their identity.

We think it is important to maintain their spoken as well as their written French. Orally it is done through us, parents, the rest of the family, our circle of francophone friends, through songs, stories and films. We keep up their writing skills using books.
When it comes to English, we trust our environment, the school, their friends and mostly, we trust our girls.

Author: Charlotte Petit


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The gift of language

Raising multilingual children has always been a mission to me, I have gone too deep to give up.

After my second child was born, I gave up my job to give the gift of language to my children, posh Mandarin Chinese that is spoken in Taiwan. Despite challenges, with the great support of my “quiet” partner, my children are not only talking to me still, but we can discuss news in Mandarin.

mt_stories_evan_furlongAlthough bilingualism may come easily when children are young, as soon as they start to attend the mainstream schools, English, the lingua franca dominates their heritage languages.  It is imperative, however, to maintain the reflex of using mother tongue with your children regardless of what language they respond back.
At least, the listening skill is contained and there is a slight chance of passing the mother tongue to the third generation.
My children and I have this mutual reflex that we must force our brains to speak English to each other when we had to, and it didn’t feel natural.

Everyone is aware of the benefits of multilingualism.  The young generation’s second or third languages in European countries are far better than their peers herein Ireland where they spent the same amount of time studying a language. It is not only a lack of motivation, but also lack of environment.  There are significantly more learning prospects in English than other languages in the media.  Parents need to create opportunities.

A few tips for parents based on my own experience.
I meet up with friends who speak Mandarin to their children regularly.  I read stories to them in Mandarin up to they were ten.  I encourage them to read and study the same.  I listen to Chinese songs with them.  I volunteer in their school to promote Chinese culture and language annually.  I spent time watching silly cartoons or movies in Mandarin with my teens.  I take every car journey as an opportunity to discuss current affairs.  I do not care if I embarrass them in front of their peers.  I text them in Chinese words and pinyin too sometimes.  I take them home to Taiwan as much as I can afford.  I felt that I have invested in too deep that there is no turning back.

To finish I have a few words from my husband on his perspective.

“It is fantastic that my children converse with ease and fluency in Mandarin with their mother.  It is the only language they speak with her.  Even now with them in their teens, there is no resistance to conversing in Mandarin, it’s just a completely natural thing for them to do, having always done so.  For the most part, it does mean I don’t know what they are talking about, but that can be a good thing sometimes as well”.

Author:  Evan Furlong


We are looking for more stories! Would you like to share yours? Send an email to info@mothertongues.ie and we will get in touch soon!