Raising Children Bilingually

I am American and I live in France with my French husband and our three children. We are raising our children bilingually- they speak both French and English as native speakers. How do we do it? And why? Those are good questions.

I speak exclusively English with my children. Not only can I not imagine not speaking English with them, we also follow the one parent, one language theory of raising children in multilingual homes. I speak English to them, my husband speaks French. Our kids speak English to me and to each other, French to their father. Together, my husband and I speak both languages.

We read a lot of books in both languages. Every evening my kids choose their bedtime stories and we read the stories from our language. They also listen to kids CDs in both languages. On the other hand, they watch TV and DVDs almost exclusively in English. We get the BBC by satellite, so they watch English kids' shows. I hate dubbed movies, so any movies they watch are in the original version, which is mostly English.

They attend lots of extra activities in English as well. Special reading readiness classes run by a local American Montessori teacher, or children's groups through the local English-language association. I believe that it is important to put a lot of emphasis on the minority language (the non native language of the country in which we live) and this approach is working.

Why do I think it's important to raise children bilingually? There are the obvious answers of increased job opportunities and awareness of other cultures. I think both these reasons are very valid and important. But beyond these reasons is the simple fact that I can't imagine speaking to my kids in another language than the one that I was raised in, that I think in, that I dream and feel in. And my husband feels the same. Given that those are two different languages, well, our kids are growing up bilingual!

Merci, et bonne journée!

Kelly is a blogger, mom and graduate student. She lives in France with her three kids, four cats and handsome French frog of a husband. You can find her at Almost Frugal and Almost Frugal Food.