Speaking Four Languages at Home

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

The Cultural Battleground of Sleepovers

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The Cultural Battleground of Sleepovers
Ever thought about how you and your partner's different cultural baggage can lead to interesting discussions about what your children will or won't be allowed to do? I am convinced that your own childhood sets the stage for what you will let your children do. In multicultural families, that can be a pretty complex mix. Monocultural Standards If both parents come from a similar cultural background, they will likely have similar ideas on raising children. Of course, mum and dad might have wildly different characters.  Read more »

What Confused Me Most about Brits

Almost 10 years ago when we first moved to the UK, I had to adapt culturally.  Read more »

The Great Ear Piercing Debate in Our Multicultural Home

By Jan's wife Souad. Piercing the ears of our daughters is a debate I have been having with my husband since our eldest was born, over eight years ago.  Read more »

What the British and Algerians Have in Common

We take a break from Jan's regular blog postings to bring you a post from his lovely wife Souad.  Read more »

I Can’t Speak Business in Any Language

None of my languages are business compatible. This morning I was sitting on a train from Paris CDG airport into Paris. I was singing a silly song in my head ("et les meufs et les keufs dans le RER") and started thinking about cultural knowledge and blending in. Listening to the chatter around me, I suddenly realised that as French as I sometimes like to think I can be, there is a massive part of French culture that I can not blend into at all: business.  Read more »

Why Everything is Done Properly in Germany

I grew up in Germany, where according to English folklore, everything is done properly. As always, there's a bit of truth behind that and now that I live in the U.K., I find that truth in places I did not expect, for example insurance sales calls. I have taken a lot of insurance company sales calls lately because two of our short-term insurances ran out—the one for the car we recently bought and the one for our fridge freezer we purchased a year ago.  Read more »

Behind Germany’s Ban on Circumcision

The circumcision “ban” that happened in Germany this past week has stirred up a lot of bad feelings and accusations. A court in Cologne settled the case of whether a doctor was right or wrong circumcising a little boy. See here, here or here. The interesting part is that a lot of newspapers use the word "ban" in their headlines. I know, of course, that publishers like an extreme headline.  Read more »

Why Your Kids Don’t Need Sunscreen

Manchester, Northern England, June 2012: the sun is out, temperature has almost hit 30°C (over 80°F for those beyond the pond), people spend as much time outside as physically possible and schools panic when parents don't apply about 100 layers of nuclear-grade sunscreen to their children before school. Summer in England. I'm not lying about the sunscreen! Not that I think a sunburn is a good thing, but the general anxiousness about even hints of sun here is unhealthy in my opinion.  Read more »

Bilingual Writers and Colonialism

It's funny how things go sometimes. After reading Francois Grosjean's recent article about Cherishing the Multilingual Heart, I started looking for authors that are multilingual. I have to admit that I didn't get very far, but I didn't have to: Francois Grosjean looked as well and he found quite a few amazing bilingual writers. It's a compelling list, full of names that are bound to make any multilingual proud, whether they are writing or not.  Read more »

The Power of Culture in Raising Multilingual Kids

TV and Other Cultural References Through use of technology it is fairly easy for us to expose our children to all kinds of languages and cultures. Need proof? My daughters recognise the title song of a TV show called "Wickie und die starken Männer" even though we live in the UK where it will never air. I used to watch "Wickie" ("Vicky the Viking") when I was a kid.  Read more »

The Holidays in Multicultural Families

Nearly one year ago, for the first time in my life, I was responsible for Christmas. Well, I didn't suddenly turn into Father Christmas, of course, but it felt like I was anyway. Expat Holidays Like a lot of expats, we spend most of our travel budget on visiting family. The two yearly trips to my mum around Christmas and my in-laws in summer are usually all we do.  Read more »

When People Confuse my Heritage

I interrupt my regular posting, to bring you a post from my wife, Souad. At the doctor’s recently, I received a funny question about my accent and heritage. Three years ago, I was diagnosed with a cataract in my left eye (I was only 33!). For the last two weeks, I have been experiencing some pain and loss of vision in my right eye, the "good eye".  Read more »

How Francois Grosjean Broke My Multilingual Heart

Francois Grosjean broke my heart with an article he wrote recently, "Helen or Hélène." The actual quote that touched me was not from him but from Uriel Weinreich, who was a language researcher in the U.S. It goes "few language users are poets." The idea is that if you are multilingual, you are trying to be more efficient with your communication.  Read more »

Are Germans Really Rude?

Disclaimer: bloggers opinions are entirely their own and are independent of InCultureParent. Being a German myself, I feel I'm entitled to say this: Germans are rude. In the UK, being rude is a really bad thing. I wonder where it ranks on the "don't do!" scale, but I guess it's up there with stealing from the handicapped or old women, or lying to a child.  Read more »

Raising Girls in the U.K. so They Don’t End Up Pregnant at 15

I have lived in Germany more than half of my life. I spent almost seven years in France, and I have been living in the U.K. for eight years soon. Am I still a German? Not really, I guess. I am not an Englishman, either. So who am I? This question gets more and more difficult to answer. I will never be an Englishman, I reckon. Or rather, I won't ever feel like one.  Read more »

Expat Life Explained

I was obviously joking when I told you not to live abroad. Living abroad is probably the second most amazing thing I have done in my life. Right after raising children. But while we're talking about the problematic sides of multilingual living, I might as well mention one big problem all expats will face at some point.   Family & Home Away From Home   So you're living abroad.  Read more »

Embarrassing Multilingual Moments

The other day a builder was at our house to do something in the kitchen. He told me how he thought it was funny that just when he knocked on the door, a Lufthansa aircraft went overhead, because garble blah garble blah blah.   I tried not to do the completely blank stare, but I had not understood a single word of his explanation.   Now, about an hour later, I think he was trying some German and I felt a bit sorry because it failed utterly.  Read more »

Issues with Living Multilingually

My two "pet issues" with living multilingually are closely related.   Issue number one is "multilingual schizophrenia." I don't know whether there is an official term for it, so this is my term. I feel slightly different depending on what language I speak, almost as if my personality changes a little bit when I switch languages.   Issue number two is "language forgetting," or in my case "mother-tongue forgetting.  Read more »

Language Forgetting

I am still thinking about language forgetting. The issue at hand is that my daughters do not hear enough German to be able to develop a strong foundation, right? I am the only constantly available source of German they have. Doesn't that mean that I am the issue, really? Well, part of it is the fact that one person alone cannot provide enough immersion.  Read more »

Forgetting my Mother Tongue

Francois Grosjean's recent article on language forgetting struck a cord. I have experienced a form of language forgetting myself when I was seven years old, in a limited sense. My family moved from Frankfurt in Germany's Hessen region to Hamburg in the North. Both my sister and I had spoken "hessisch," the local dialect spoken in Hessen. Within six months after the move we had both completely switched to a Hamburg accent and had actually forgotten our dialect.  Read more »

Cheerleading, Katy Perry and My Six-Year-Old

Our soon to be six-year-old is now taking cheerleading classes once a week after school. Her best friend S does it so we didn't even go into the "why not do some real activity?" discussion. And now she is building up a repertoire of pop songs that she hums and sings while she is playing, and that has made us think. Picking up English I do not remember at what age I started to listen to music.  Read more »

Stereotypes in Bringing up Children

(This is the follow-up to the article Cultural Stereotypes) Where to live? On a recent long-haul flight, I was talking with an American who lives in Germany and has lived in France for some time. We spoke about family and children and I mentioned that I was not sure whether I preferred my children to grow up in the UK or in France. I have three girls and my feeling is that I'd probably like them to be French rather than English.  Read more »

Cultural Stereotypes

I have been an expat for almost 13 years or roughly one-third of my life. I grew up in Northern Germany and moved to the South in 1990 so really we're talking about 21 years that I have not lived "at home." (As in most countries, the North and South of Germany are very different.) I think I am so used to it by now that I can't easily say where exactly I come from.  Read more »

Christmas for the Very First Time

This year, I celebrated Christmas in my own place with my wife and three daughters. It was the first time that I did this and I'm 41 years old. Wow. What sounds a little bit weird is actually more due to the way we expats live. When I left my parents' house in 1990 to study 800km further south, I thought it was a temporary move. So like most of my friends I came back "home" for Christmas every year while I was studying.  Read more »

Why I Want My Children to be Multilingual

Question: why is it important to me that my kids speak more than one language? I have to admit that I never really thought about this. When I married an Algerian woman I must have assumed my children would be multilingual. Or maybe I was so unprepared that I actually didn't have an opinion. But in hindsight it is obvious that there really was no choice for me.  Read more »

No Common Mother Tongue

A lot of resources on the web talk about the two most successful approaches in multilingual parenting: "One Parent One Language" (OPOL) and "Minority Language at Home" (MLAH or ML@H). Both have advantages and both are tailored to pretty specific situations. MLAH works best in an expat environment for example, where both parents speak a common language but live abroad with their children.  Read more »
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