Top 5 Family Traditions for Multilingual Families

Our family just started multilingual journey, however, we are constantly thinking how to incorporate languages into our family routine, make it a pleasant time for everyone so speaking another language is enjoyable and natural.

Here are our top 5 family traditions for multilingual families:

1. make a quote book of your kids while they learn languages. Children always invent their own language, mix languages in the own fun and unusual way, invent their own words,etc. My mother used to recall many of my languages expressions even when I was already an adult and we laughed. Or maybe your kids will write stories/poems in different languages that would be also great to save.

Or perhaps while watching cartoons/movies you will find some fun language to save and make jokes. For Soviet kids many cartoon quotes drifted into conversation, our family liked using many:

(“I have a thought and I am thinking it” )(photo

or  if your children are over 10 you can make idioms book in your language. There are many ways:

– if you have pets or choose a particular object and  find all language expressions with them  and make drawings, pictures to explain these idioms

here is a cute album with Spanish expressions with cats


“Somos cuatro gatos” (Literal translation: We are four cats.What it actually means: It’s a small group of people)


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2. make quality get together time to discuss in your language best of the day/week/month over tea/kefir/wine, etc

3. choose books/songs for each other to read in your language. we like to read and sing karaoke

4. make personalized ABC book of your daily life/trips

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(photo credit:

our daughter`s first book is in three languages:


5. make a year in review (or holiday journal review) using your language:


(make notes during family time or mark in your calendars the most important events)

Language update May 2014

Our daughter is 12 months and she can distinguish languages:

– she understands simple requests in both languages (come here, stop doing)

– she gives Spanish books to father and Russian books to mother when she want us to read her a story

– whenever she  hears any of our languages in the crowd she turns there and tries to engage into conversation with these people+ she feels more confident, less stranger anxiety with them

This language update is devoted to meeting my grandmother, our daughter`s great-grandmother. It was fantastic that our daughter had an instant connection from the first sight with her great-grandmother, no stranger anxiety, she was curious touching her face, listening to poems and fairy tales that granny was reading to her. We made voice and video recordings as we like to use them from time to time.

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The reunion was in Chicago, a jewel of the America`s Midwest. Here is a Google map of Lake house journey through city`s architecture (from Lake house movie) or take a boat tour. And check out  Aimee Thomson Chicago mom blog on multicultural events and places to visit with children.

Language update March 2014

Our daughter is 10 months, she says “mama” and “papa”  and using correctly when one of us is present.

Our family has an occasional nanny, luckily she is also from Andalusia,Spain like my husband.

I try to establish play dates on a regular basis to expose our child to Russian  and Spanish.

Now our family has “reading stations”, while our daughter is crawling from room to room she can find a shelf with a book she might like. At the moment we have 2 ” reading stations” in the living room, 2 in the dining room and 1 in our bedroom. She loves it and that keeps her interested in books as objects and reminds us to grab a book and read to her.

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Language update February 2014

Our daughter is 9 month old (closing 1st language opportunity window)

Up to now she coos, pronounces sounds papa, mama, dada, boo.

We (parents) speak our native languages: Russian and Spanish, between English.

At the moment we do not avoid, but minimize English language: mother does not participate in father-daugher talk, parents speaks mostly when child is away/sleeping.

Current challenges:

So far we came across only 1 challenge- speaking our languages in public. Sometimes it is a bit awkward.

First, I (Mother) tried not to speak too much in order not to attract too much attention, did not speak/sing while taking child to yoga or swim  classes and used Russian rhymes instead. Father uses translation versions of songs during classes while instructing child what should be done.

It is clear that our daughter understands both of us when we use simple language when talking about e.g. food, sleep.

We introduced  American sign language (words: eat, more, breastfeeding) and she responds to eat, especially when asking more for food:).

What do we do:

1. tell friends and family how we communicate in order to set up expectations how the social gathering with us will look like

2. when strangers talk to our daughter we speak to her in our language (basically translating), if necessary tell/explain we raise bilingual kid