Pin It
Monday, March 18th, 2013

Real Intercultural Family in the U.S.: Russian, Spanish and English

By
Real intercultural family Lydia, Max and Abigail/ InCultureParent

Welcome Lydia, Abigail and Max!

 

Where are you from?

 

Guatemala and Belize. I was born in Guatemala and raised in both countries during some of the worst years of civil war in Guatemala. My dad was Guatemalan and my mom Belizean.

 

Where do you currently live and what countries have you lived in?

 

I currently live in Berkeley, California. I have lived in Guatemala City, Belize City and Caye Caulker, Belize, Miami, Mountain View, CA, Oakland, and Palo Alto, CA

 

How old are your children and where were they born? What is their cultural heritage?

 

My children are five (Max) and six (Abigail), and they were born in Berkeley, CA. I am Hispanic and their father is Russian Jewish.

 

What passports do you and your children hold?

 

I hold Belizean, Guatemalan and American passports. My children hold American passports.

 

In what languages do you speak to your children?

 

Spanish and English.

 

What languages do your children speak?

 

They speak Spanish and English with me and Russian with their dad.

 

How do you reinforce other languages beyond just the parents speaking it?

 

We read in Spanish, Russian and English; we try to do regular playdates with other Spanish- and Russian-speaking children; we are friends with our Spanish-speaking  produce guys at the local supermarket; their school has many Spanish-immersion kids with whom they speak regularly, although Abigail and Max are not in any immersion program; we have adult friends who are learning Spanish from the kids, and like to read in Spanish for them or get help from kids for their (the adult’s) Spanish homework.

 

Did you ever have any concerns with your children’s language acquisition?

 

Never. I read a bit about bilingualism in young children while pregnant, and from my own experience, learning two or more languages at an early age gives anyone a tremendous advantage in life.

 

Do you have any advice for parents raising multilingual kids on what works and what doesn’t?

 

Keep trying no matter what, and take breaks if you feel like you need to. I have been dreaming and thinking in English for the past five years, after going through college and graduate school in English, so many times I have to be the more disciplined one remembering to practice Spanish with my kids. Eventually we all switch to Spanish and it all flows naturally, but we have many breaks in English when we just want to zone out and speak the mainstream language, especially because depending on the topic it may be easier to communicate in English some days. So don’t be too hard on yourselves, and just be consistent with your goal of raising multilingual children. Most importantly, HAVE FUN—they will thank you later for giving them this amazing gift that could open so many doors in the future, and help them learn more about their own multicultural heritage.

 

What does raising a little global citizen mean to you?

 

It means raising awareness even at an early age about the enormous diversity in our world, while also pointing out that we have so many commonalities and we are one people striving for similar ideals. Living in the Bay Area it is hard not to feel like a global citizen because our community is so diverse already. At family dinners we are usually surrounded by friends from all over the world, including Mexico, China, the Philippines, India, Japan, Vietnam, Guam, Russia, Ukraine, and all over Latin America.

 

Recently, when choosing an elementary school for my five-year-old we enrolled her in a public elementary school near home instead of a private French-immersion program, which was her dad’s first preference. One of the main considerations was that the public school system offered a significantly more diverse student body than the French school.

 

What religion are you? And how are you raising your children?

 

I was raised Catholic because I grew up part of my childhood in a former Spanish colony. I do not practice any religion since I left Guatemala. The children are learning about Judaism and about the Catholic faith, although we do not practice. I consider it simply part of their heritage that they should know something about the faith I grew up in, because in a way it is part of our culture.

 

What have been your greatest challenges as an intercultural family?

 

Negotiating the many compromises involved in parenthood is sometimes difficult because we are from such different backgrounds, and many times we disagreed about parenthood approaches to various issues. We try to keep in mind what is best for the children whenever we are making decisions about their upbringing. Many times the children themselves help us decide some of the important decisions. For example, last year, when deciding in which elementary school to enroll Abigail, she voiced her own preference for the local school because we could walk to school in the mornings and she could run in the grass! The private school is all concrete with limited open space for outdoor play.

 

What have been your greatest joys as an intercultural family?

 

Joking about the misunderstandings we sometimes have while switching between languages, and getting to know other multicultural families who share some of our challenges in helping our children make the most of their diverse heritage.

© 2013, Stephanie Meade. All rights reserved.

More Great Stuff You'll Love:


Is Raising Bilingual Children Worth the Costs?

Fancy schools, international vacations, foreign language books, DVDs and tutors add up fast

Language Resource Library for Raising Bilingual Kids

The most comprehensive list of language learning resources

Is all the Hard Work of Bilingualism Really Paying Off?

I just found out the surprising answer.

A Different World: No Longer Brown in White America

Is it racist to not want to raise your kids in white America?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Stephanie is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of InCultureParent. She has two Moroccan-American daughters (ages 5 and 6), whom she is raising, together with her husband, bilingual in Arabic and English at home, while also introducing Spanish. After many moves worldwide, she currently lives in Berkeley, California.

Leave us a comment!

4 Comments
  1. CommentsFrances   |  Monday, 18 March 2013 at 8:53 am

    What a great interview! What I especially loved is her advice on raising multilingual kids: to have fun, to keep trying no matter what, and to also take breaks. Her interview gives me hope and optimism especially on days when I feel like throwing in the towel (giving up!). Thank you!

  2. CommentsKim at Mama Mzungu   |  Monday, 18 March 2013 at 10:16 am

    Great interview! I also thought the idea of “taking breaks” was refreshing. There’s such an urgency to achieve fluency sometimes, we forget to relax. What a fascinating family!

  3. Commentsmila bedoya-pineda   |  Monday, 18 March 2013 at 11:31 am

    I teach Spanish, my kids are fully bilingual!

  4. CommentsMarina K. Villatoro   |  Tuesday, 23 July 2013 at 12:31 pm

    We could be best friends :) Our families are sooo a like.









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.
Hi Kim! I am so glad that this article was useful for you and made you feel validated as a parent. It's not often in this judgmental world of parenting we get that, right?! That's the main reason...
From The West’s Strange Relationship to Babies and Sleep
I love reading your work. I can olny imagine what it would be like to have such beautiful customs and true community. I understand why it is so very very important to keep these traditions alive. Be...
From No Kids Allowed: How Kenyan Weddings are Changing
Your mother in-law seems somewhat reasonable. Many Chinese Mother In-laws are not. In their scenario, they would be number 1 to the child and you would be number two. Many want to have a bond closer...
From How My Chinese Mother-in-Law Replaced my Husband
I think Konstantina is actually responding to what is probably more familiar/praised/or preferred socially as well. I was an English teacher in Poland with a distinct accent. I struggled to get Engl...
From Should I Worry about My Child’s Accent in Her Foreign Language?
Noor Kids' title "First Time Fasting" is another great rea...
From 6 Favorite Children’s Books about Ramadan
This article was shared in a community I run to connect globetrotting parents and everyone LOVED it. You should join us! We all relate to your experience. Many of us, including me, are in the same b...
From Why I Travel 13 Hours Alone with My Kids Every Chance I Get
Please help: I Love my wife and my son. I am also EXTREMELY involved as a dad. I had to move to china ( in a tiny tiny town) where I am the only foreigner so that my wife can take over the family bu...
From How My Chinese Mother-in-Law Replaced my Husband
Thanks for writing this!! My baby is 7 months, and I love having her sleep in my room. I don't mention it too often to people who have had kids because they seem a little judgy on it. So tonight I...
From The West’s Strange Relationship to Babies and Sleep
Honestly, it looks like the author married into a very backward and old fashioned family. Not stimulating children's curiosity, differences between boys and girls, and women slaving in the house, wh...
From French versus Italian Parenting in One Multicultural Family

More Real Families