Why We Chose to Raise Our Son Trilingual

Falling in love with my husband has turned my world upside down. 

It has changed my life forever and it has shaped the life of our child.

I am Marlena- born and brought up in Poland. My mother tongue is Polish. My husband was born and brought up in India. However, his case is a bit more complicated. His dominant language is Hindi, but his parents (especially mum) used to speak Punjabi to him. On top of that, he lived in the state of Maharashtra in India, so he learned Marathi, the state language, as everyone used to speak this language outside of his home and at school. Of course, let’s not forget about English as many of his school subjects were taught in this language.

Overall, I’m fluent in Polish and English, intermediate in German and I understand a little simply spoken Hindi. My husband is fluent in Hindi, Punjabi, Marathi, English, and understands a little simply spoken Polish. We communicate with each other only and always in English- it’s ‘our language’.

[perfectpullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Raising our son as a trilingual child came very naturally to us. Luckily, my husband and I share the same values and ways of thinking.[/perfectpullquote]

Together, we have created a multilingual and multicultural family. There was no particular need to have serious discussions or reach an agreement or compromise regarding how we would raise our son. We just knew we would teach him our own languages. We did the same thing with our religions and our cultures. Our son is interfaith- brought up with Catholicism and Sikhism. We try to blend our cultures and traditions by incorporating them into everything we do together. 

Our Polish-Indian cultures and traditions are blended into everything we do together. Click To Tweet

Why We Raised Our Son Trilingual

To be able to talk to his grandparents

One of the main reasons why we wanted our child to speak both our native languages was to have a strong relationship with his grandparents from both sides. We could not imagine him being unable to communicate with them freely and fluently. None of his grandparents are very fluent in English (some of them are quite ok, some of them do not know English at all). Even if they were very fluent, it would not be their first language anyway. We wanted our son to be able to express his feelings and emotions when he is with them.

We wanted him to be able to tell them on a daily basis (via Skype or Facetime) about his day, what he did at school, who his friends are, what his plans are for the next few days, what his parents did wrong again (in other words, complain about us), share his thoughts, ask grandparents about anything that came to his mind- from asking how they are feeling to debating about science or politics. We hope, when he is relatively older, he will spend his holidays, and days off school with grandparents in their respective countries. This amazing time together would not be possible if there is a communication barrier.

To be able to talk to other family and friends

We visit our homelands quite often. Once there, we meet with our families (plus extended families) and friends. How would our son feel if he did not speak the same language as his cousins? He would feel isolated and would not want to return to the countries of his parents. He would feel awkward not being able to understand what other people were saying or why they were laughing or crying. It’s like how I feel when I am watching a French movie – I only get what my eyes can understand.

How would your children feel if they did not speak the same language as their cousins? Click To Tweet

To get to know his parents

Parents' native languages are a form of legacy for any #multicultural #multilingual child Click To Tweet

We also wanted our son to learn our native languages because that is one way of getting to know us, his parents, and learn about who we are, to where we belong, know more about our culture and how and what we really think. One’s native language is one of the key factors that define that person. Parents’ native languages are a heritage, a form of legacy for any mixed/multicultural child.

We also wanted to raise our son trilingual because being multilingual has many advantages.

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Advantages of Growing up Multilingual

Multilingualism since birth has plenty of advantages. 

First of all, knowing more than one language will boost their confidence and self-esteem. It will create a natural adaptability and flexibility to different environments and will ease stepping out of their comfort zones. It will help them study more languages as they will be aware of and familiar with different grammar rules, sentence structures, and pronunciations.

[perfectpullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Children who know more than one language develop a better understanding and appreciation for other cultures. They tend to be more open-minded and find it much easier to make friends with somebody from a completely different culture, race or background.[/perfectpullquote]

Multilingualism has been proven to help children develop superior reading and writing skills. Multilingual children also tend to have overall better analytical, social and academic skills than their monolingual peers [note]http://www.multilingualchildren.org/getting_started/pro_con.html [/note]. Recent studies reveal that bilingual children averaged higher scores in cognitive performance on tests involving problem-solving, multi-tasking, and creative thinking [note] https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/radical-teaching/201211/bilingual-brains-smarter-faster[/note]. Being multilingual also increases employment options.

Children who know more than one language develop a better understanding and appreciation for other cultures. They tend to be more open-minded and find it much easier to make friends with somebody from a completely different culture, race, or background. My son, who is now 3.5 years old, has already started making friends on his own. Some of his friends have a different skin colour than his, some of them are from totally different backgrounds and some of them do not even speak English (Polish or Hindi)! He chose them as his friends so he must feel comfortable and happy with them.

In my next article, I will write about different strategies on how to raise a trilingual child. I will also share my personal story and let you know which strategy (or no strategy) we chose.


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