I am so thrilled to be hosting the new Raising Multilingual Children Blogging Carnival for June. This month’s theme is Multilingualism and Travel, although we also have a few wonderful posts on multilingualism more generally. As always, the posts included in this month’s carnival are outstanding. I feel privileged to be hosting for such an amazing group of bloggers, and I know you will enjoy reading their work, too!
The Importance of Travel to Multilingual Families
Why is travel so important to multilingual families? Language learning, of course, is a major reason, but not the only one. MotherTongues gives a great overview of why travel with kids is important, including language acquisition, learning about diversity, and creating friendships around the world.
LadydeeLG also emphasizes the role that travel can play in teaching kids about language, heritage, customs, family, and diversity. She was also able to observe some amazing code-switching in her two year old during their last trip abroad!
Preserving family ties, language, and culture was also important to Discovering the World Through My Son’s Eyes. But while any exposure to another language abroad are significant, she points out that our efforts at home can make this process even more profound.
The blog Immersion in Language and Culture took the plunge and dedicated six months to living in the Philippines so that her kids could become fluent. (They actually ended up staying one and a half years!) Interestingly, she and others found that even during immersion travel, many people want to speak to them in English, so learning the target language is not always as easy as you would think! Keeping up the language now that they are back in California is still a challenge, but much easier thanks to their immersion trip.
Multilingual Mama has decided that travel is so important to her family that it takes precedence over keeping the kids in private language immersion schools. After all, travel can offer the full package of language learning plus cultural immersion, family ties, and great food!
Tips for Immersion Travel
So you know you want to take your kids abroad – now what? Kid World Citizen gives us a personal view of one terrific option: sending your kids to summer camp in another country. This is something we are definitely going to look into for our sons!
If this type of immersion travel piques your interest, check out the tips she gives on planning a summer abroad in this guest post on Spanglish Baby.
It is also possible to enroll your child in a local school abroad, as Soultravelers3 has done so successfully with her daughter, who otherwise homeschools as they travel around the world. She also emphasizes the hard work and sacrifice that are required to achieve real fluency in a foreign language, especially one as difficult as Mandarin.
BXL Sprout also explores the issue of fluency and how it is defined for multilingual children. As children become aware of their accent in a second or third language, how does this affect their progress in that language? What effect does good-natured teasing while abroad have on their self-confidence?
In some cases, multilingual families may find it necessary to balance out the language immersion experienced abroad. Too much exposure to one language can upset the delicate balance that many multilingual families maintain. Busy As a Bee in Paris has come up with a creative solution for her family’s upcoming trip to the US – speaking only Spanish as a family, since they will be immersed in English!
For more tips on keeping kids learning while abroad, see our list of ways to learn through travel, including learning new vocabulary, exploring cultures, and getting involved with local volunteer projects.
When The Impact Is Not Obvious
Though beneficial, immersion travel can sometimes be confusing for young children. Glittering Muffins just completed a major cross-country move with their young son. Since they moved from French-speaking Quebec to English-speaking Alberta, their son has struggled to make sense of the change in language environment, something often puzzling for little ones.
Those of us with young children often struggle to see improvement in our kids’ language skills when we travel. When we took our son to Costa Rica last year, he was only 2 1/2. And while I know the trip did help his Spanish, it only had a small impact on how much Spanish he spoke.
Piri piri lexicon had a similar experience traveling with her young daughter to Brazil. There was no obvious breakthrough in her daughter’s Portuguese skills, though it did result in a new name for her, even a year later!
Head of the Heard just took his young son on a trip to the UK and Ireland. Again, there was no great surge in speech, yet his passive language improved greatly, a distinction that rang true for me based on our experiences.
When Travel Is Difficult
One theme that came up again and again – whether in our posts or our conversations – was just how difficult it can be to travel with kids, especially young ones. Luckily, several bloggers offered ways to reinforce language learning even when you can’t travel. Third Culture Mama emphasizes the importance of taking kids outside of their routine in order to have meaningful interactions in the target language. This is important even when you are traveling, as it can be easy to not take advantage of these opportunities even when in another country.
Bringing Up Baby Bilingual has a great list of ways to reinforce language learning at home, such as language camps and hosting an exchange student.
More great ideas can also be found at A French American Life, who recruited friends to do a French immersion “staycation” with their young children this summer. There are so many places to explore in our backyards, without the stress of luggage, screaming babies, and acrobatic diaper changes!
Kids Yoga Stories presents another creative way to travel without going abroad, in this guest post on Moms Gone Global – create a yoga sequence the whole family can enjoy based on the language and culture of another country!
More Language Tips
One of the hard things about being a multilingual family is finding the right mix of languages. Open Hearts, Open Minds explores the question that nags most multilingual parents: How much is enough? How much of the target language should you speak to your child?
Is teaching your child another language still on your to-do list? Is it just one more “nice idea” that you can’t seem to get to? Project Procrastinot will inspire you to get started! I love that her tips make exposing your child to another language something accessible and achievable for anyone!
And if you are looking for a great way to record your child’s language development or your family travel adventures, Non-Native Bilingual Adventure recommends Project Life, a simple way to record everyday moments that would otherwise be lost.
What are your tips for language learning? Have you traveled abroad with your kids?
This is the latest installment of the Raising Multilingual Children Blogging Carnival, re-created by piri piri lexicon. For more on the carnival, including past installments and how to get involved, visit the carnival’s main page.