Bilingual or Multilingual: Speak to your kids

world map-languages

Whether you were born in the United States, immigrated here, came here for work, school, marriage or military share your culture and language with your child(ren).

The past few years I am noticing an increase in international clients and I LOVE it.  WHY? Personally, the families who hire me come to the U.S. and realize “WOW, they don’t take great care of their moms, babies and families after delivery.  I need some additional help because my family can’t be here with me, hence I will arrange for support.  Enter Colleen (aka pasaku krustmāte (Fairy Godmother in Latvian) or Baby Flüsterer (Baby Whisperer in German).  I am blessed because I love to learn about other cultures, traditions, foods, and languages.  Mostly, I love to watch parents, family members or friends interact with, bond and fall in love with their babies.

I regularly sit in admiration of HOW their baby looks at them, the way they pronounce words, the way their mouths move, the annotation of their voices, the smile that quickly spreads across their face and the sparkle in both sets of eyes. Plus, watching the other partner, grandparent or friend watch them is so sweet to observe. I have been told that speaking in your native language, gives parents a feeling of connection to their country, culture and loved ones that they miss and being able to share with their newborn is comforting.

WHY should you teach your children a second language?

According to Secondary Korean teacher Ms Yunjung Kim, “Native language plays an essential role in establishing your identity. History and culture is inherent in language. Learning the native language signifies learning the same history and culture of your parents, relatives, and even the generations before and after.”  Each parents culture is important to their child and it is ok if the other parent does not speak or understand what you are saying to your child.  That is one of my favorite parts of my home visits, listening and observing.  Then I get to ask, “what are you saying to them” and then try to understand it (there are numerous ways to say the same thing).  The more I hear, the more I am learning about languages, traditions and cultures.

There is so much research about the many benefits to babies and children when learning another language, from creativity, to sensitivity and empathy, boosting brain power to enhancing cognitive abilities. “Every infant is born with the ability to mimic the sounds of any language. But by the time a baby is about 10 months old, he begins to narrow down the range of sounds to those that he hears around him. So if you want your child to learn a second language, it’s best to introduce it in the first year of life.”  Start speaking to them as soon as you are able.  Tell them Happy Birthday on the day that they are born, count their fingers and toes in your language and sing them Twinkle Twinkle or You are My Sunshine right away.  Give them kisses, cuddle them tightly and whisper I LOVE you quietly in their ear.

HOW to say I LOVE YOU in different languages

-わたしは、あなたを愛しています (Japanese)

ខ្ញុំស្រលាញ់អ្នក/ khnhom sralanh anak (Cambodian)

Volim te (Croatian)

Je vous aime (French)

Eu amo Você (Portuguese)

Unë të dua (Albanian)

Nakupenda (Swahili)

WAYS to incorporate a different language into your home:

Some of my clients have chosen to speak to their child in their native language at home and only speak English outside of the home.  Others incorporate books, music, pictures, movies, tv shows, coloring and art.  Make it FUN and involve everyone in the family, via phone, skype, zoom or FaceTime.  The more the child hears it, the better. Label household items with stickers and the names. Go on walks and point out trees, birds, landscapes, mountains, houses and cars and call them by their names. Make native dishes and allow them to get used to different smells, flavors and textures.  Whatever route you choose, be consistent with your speaking and teaching and ask others for help when needed. Your child will thank you for being bilingual or multilingual the older they get.

WHAT I have learned from my clients:

I just recently received a text from a client, she is from Taiwan and he is from Germany and they have been working on choosing a name for their daughter.  Well after 4 months and a move back to the island of Hawaii, they decided on one and sent me her name plus its meaning. “She smiles when we call her that, doesn’t smile for the other candidate names.  We use the French pronunciation, (dads name) like to speak French to her because she, for whatever reason, lights up to the language.  Must be the soft melodic nature of the sounds.”

I walked into the house of another client and she was singing to her daughter in Latvian, I quietly observed and recognized the melody of the tune.  She speaks 5 languages fluently and has traveled to well over 50 different countries.  Her husband speaks several languages as well.  A while into the visit I focused on the music in the background and inquired what language it was in.  The dad replied “Portuguese, we love it but don’t speak it.” I anticipate this little girl will be multilingual.

I have listened to a Veteran dad read in Farsi, a novel for his enjoyment, but he chose to read it out loud to his daughter.  He also played his guitar and sang an Egyptian/Arabic nursery rhyme for her too. Another dad speaks to his little guy in Swiss while diaper changing to keep him calm.  I have heard the same sayings and nursery rhymes from him so many times that I can even hum along now.  One of my clients has bought and plays Chinese music at nap and bed time, plus has a stuffed bear dressed in a Chinese kimono that says many phrases in Chinese.  I have also had the great pleasure of tasting many native dishes during my visits.  From special teas and celebratory cake from the Philippines, an amazing apple/meringue crumble from Latvia, a potato casserole from Suriname and a traditional stew dish from Iran, I benefit from all my international clients.

Being multilingual or bilingual is an amazing gift to give your child(ren). It will help them in more ways than you can imagine.  If you currently only speak one language, there is always time to learn a new one. Purchase Rosetta stone, read a book, watch a movie, listen to music, join a club, or schedule a trip and learn together.  “Language is the road map of a culture. It tells you where its people come from and where they are going”. – Rita Mae Brown

For more helpful hints, tips and ways to THRIVE in your 4th trimester, check out and book a consultation with Colleen today!

Share this post

Due to COVID 19, Colleen will be providing virtual and/or in home support.

Feel free to call, text or email her for virtual support in the comfort, safely providing virtual and in-person support based on families needs!