Pin It
Saturday, November 13th, 2010

Another Benefit of Raising Kids in Non-native Language


In the beginning I often felt quite self-conscious speaking French in public, with my English accent and errors. But people have always been lovely–English people often try and say a few minority language (ml) words to the children, such as ‘Bonjour’ and ‘Au revoir,’ while French people are often curious about my decision to speak non-native French, particularly if they haven’t spoken French with their own children! And an unforeseen benefit is that I feel less exposed when it comes to disciplining Schmoo in public!

Schmoo sometimes teaches me new words now–a few days ago she kept referring to her pot of bubble mixture as a ‘flacon,’ a word I don’t know and hadn’t taught her. In fact, I wondered why she kept referring to it as a ‘flocon,’ or ‘flake’ (of snow). Then I came across the word in a book and realised what she meant. She also uses phrases she picks up at school, especially from immersion French club, such as ‘mon coeur’ and ‘ma belle.’ In September 2007, Schmoo started in the English section at the nursery class of this school, with a bilingual teacher who spoke to the children in English, alongside her assistant who spoke to them in French (unfortunately there was no space for her in the French section). But last September, after 2 years in the English section, she entered the French section for her final year at the school and, this year, she started at one of the Lycee’s primary schools.

At the moment, I am still undecided as to how long to continue speaking French with the children. I don’t want Schmoo to be behind with her French compared with the other children (most of whom are from francophone families), but on the other hand, I wonder if my French is up to communicating intensively with a 6 year old and beyond! At the moment, I’m playing it by ear, trying to keep up with her expanding vocabulary and the continual questions (‘But, why, mum?’)! If it feels too difficult, I may have to switch to English, at least for complex concepts, but I’ll continue reading and singing to the children in French, and will keep all DVDs, CDs, storytapes, etc in the ml as well.

Schmoo is 6 now and it feels very natural to speak to her in French (and a little strange to speak to her in English)! Pan-Pan is showing all the signs of going the same way–one of his favourite words is ‘coin coin’ (‘quack quack’) for duck! It sometimes feels like very hard work, on top of all the usual hard work of childcare, but I try and remind myself that, even if the children choose not to continue with their French into adulthood, they will have gained so much from having learned three languages through their childhood.

© 2010 – 2013, Omma Velada. All rights reserved.

More Great Stuff You'll Love:

How I Made My Forgotten Native Language My Child’s Strongest

I started off by speaking dodgy Cantonese. No word for remote control? No problem! ‘Pressy thingy.’

Circumcision Wars

She fought her Turkish in-laws on it--did she succeed?


Omma and her husband are raising their two children, Schmoo and Pan-Pan, trilingually in the UK with English (native), Twi (late start) and French (non-native). She blogs on raising trilingual children at

Leave us a comment!

1 Comment
  1. CommentsDadLabs Ep.47 The Lab “Parenting Magazines” | All About Parenting...   |  Saturday, 13 November 2010 at 9:04 am

    […] Another Benefit of Raising Kids in Non-native Language | InCultureParent […]

Notify me of follow-up comments via e-mail.
Or leave your email address and click here to receive email notifications of new comments without leaving a comment yourself.

Get weekly updates right in your inbox so you don't miss out!

Why I Travel 13 Hours Alone with My Kids Every Chance I Get

Travelling with children, while definitely more of a mission, contradicts the old saying that “life is about the journey, not the destination.”

A Diverse Book for Preschoolers in Celebration of Multicultural Children's Book Day

A book that honestly and simply celebrates the every day diversity that children experience.

Why My African Feminist Mother Gave Me the Identity of My Father's Tribe

She gave me an identity so different from her own.

2 Children’s Books about Jamaica

Explore Jamaica with your child.

Costa Rica with Kids: Two Weeks of Family Travel

Two weeks of Pura Vida in a country with so much to offer families.

Should I Worry about My Child's Accent in Her Foreign Language?

See why Dr. Gupta takes offense to this question and where children learn accents from

How to raise trilingual kids when exposure to Dad's language is limited

My kids only get 1-2 hours of the minority language per day-help!

What Cultural Norms Around Bare Feet Taught This Mother in Guatemala

Her baby's bare feet ended up being a lesson on poverty and privilege.
[…] the breastfeeding culture in Mongolia compared to America. Did you have any idea that something as simple as breastfeeding attitudes can […...
From Breastfeeding in the Land of Genghis Khan
My mother born in the 1930's is originally from the northern part of Germany. I am in my mid fifties and have a terrible relationship with my mother. She is domineering and hurts those where it hurt...
From Are Germans Really Rude?
[…] JC Niala, InCultureParent […...
From Why African Babies Don’t Cry
[…] […...
From Breastfeeding Around the World
Although humanity is one Man (in a generic sense, including woman)has identified himself endless groups, religious, nationalistic, ethnic, cultural, linguistic, etc. Once you separate ME from YOU on...
From What’s an Asian? Race and Identity for a New Generation
[…] […...
From Breastfeeding in the Land of Genghis Khan
Some great tips here but not many working mothers could feed baby every hour especially if you work in a major multi-nationa...
From Why African Babies Don’t Cry
So true!!! Thanks for being so honest and self reflective. It's a proof of true characte...
From Are Germans Really Rude?
As a first-time mom I've spent the last two months of my four-month-old's life stressed out about her sleep and I recognize how crazy this is. It's clearly not working for me! I'm wondering how non-...
From The West’s Strange Relationship to Babies and Sleep

More Raising Bilingual Children