The bilingual (or multilingual) story starts with this question, in a certain way. For parents the choice of their child’s name is full of meaning and often related to a story, a shared moment. It’s extremely carefully decided. As this name lasts for your whole life, it’s the first identification someone is granted with. And it’s probably one of the words you write and speak most in your life. Especially for multicultural families, who have relatives abroad, it’s an important space where they can pass on cultural values.
Whilst preparing my questionnaire for the book Bilingual Families: Bringing Up Children between Cultures I didn’t think of this question, it was one of my first interviewees-couples who gave me the idea to mention this point with the parents. And they were right, I had lots of colourful stories which underline how important this topic is for the parents.
Let’s have a close look at some of them and don’t hesitate to tell us your story in a comment below.
Hannah is Israeli and married to Dirk who is Dutch. They have one child and a second on it’s way.
The choice of our child’s name was a very cultural negotiation between us. As it was really important for my husband that the child carries his surname.
Dirk: The reason why is simple. Continue Reading
At the start of the bilingual (or even trilingual) trip of life with kids you often are looking for places where they can meet and play with other children. It’s also (which is not less important) a moment when you can reconnect with your home country, take time to chat in your mother-tongue around a cup of coffee!
Oxford is packed with lots of different playgroups and little language schools! All these places give you the opportunity to connect with other multilingual families and to share cultural events and customs. It’s a new way for your children to explore your and their home-culture in another environment than at home. We do certainly all agree that this is extremely useful. It is during these meetings that they realise that they are part of a cultural and linguistic community.
I discovered the importance of such places since we are expatriates and as part of my work on Bilingual Families: Bringing Up Children between Cultures. That’s why I was thrilled to discover all the different playgroups and schools for children with an international background. Continue Reading
Bringing up children is a fantastic journey but it’s also a challenging one. More than you might imagine you’re propelled into your own childhood and have to consider what you want (or don’t want!) to pass on to your kids. For my book project Bilingual Families: Bringing Up Bilingual Children between Cultures, I talked a lot with parents about their experiences in their own multi-cultural and multi-lingual lives. One unexpected thing that came up is how much the adventure of life changes when kids arrive on the scene.
Being bilingual is not the same as having a responsibility to transmit your mother tongue and culture to your child. Especially when you realize that the first person who has to learn is yourself! When you live abroad you find out that you are no longer used to speaking your mother tongue; you have lost a lot of vocabulary on the way if you don’t speak regularly with native speakers; you remember music from the time you were living there (let’s say 20 years ago…) and don’t even think about the culture of childhood which has changed a lot since you were living in your home country…
So first of all, dear parent who wants to raise (or indeed who already raises) bilingual children, take some time to consider how you relate to your mother-tongue and home country. This is and will remain an integral part of the adventure of raising children between cultures.
Here are some extracts from my interviews on the themes of identity, nationality and culture!
Alice (French, married to a Welshman; she has lived in France, Africa and the US)
“I don’t feel as French as I perhaps should. When you leave home, you feel a stronger association with your home country. French is really my identity, but my culture is more a mixture of cultures. I travelled a lot, and I like some aspects of other cultures, British, French and some others…” Continue Reading
The end of April 2014 found me starting the writing project for my book Bringing Up Children between Cultures. The main idea behind the book is to interview bi-cultural couples in Oxfordshire about their day-to-day experiences. This involves couples in which both partners come from different countries, speak different languages, and have different traditions, habits and therefore different parenting styles.
Through anecdotes, stories and their own personal perspectives, these couples will illustrate how enriching and sometimes challenging parenting can be between different cultures.
In now close to one year I have interviewed twenty couples and single parents: French-Colombian, German-Irish, English-Thai… parents shared with me their experiences as couples and parents. We talk about subjects like communication in two (or more) languages, couple life between different cultures, expecting a child and children’s upbringing, bilingualism and how to transmit values from another country…
Would you like to join in this exciting book-project? I can’t wait hearing from you!
“Pictures on our phone, some documents in our Dropbox, others on our hard disc, a to-do list in the pocket another one in the kitchen… we are struggling every day to remember where we put our stuff” tells Lina smiling, she is chief marketing officer at Journl. Based at the Centre for Innovation in Oxford the twelve people team is passionate about the idea to develop a virtual place where you can put your notes down in notebooks, store photos, documents and bills, collect emails, create to-do lists, check shopping-lists or other kinds of lists… Together they animate Journl, a service to help you get better organized! “It’s particularly useful for families who have lots of things to plan ahead for, for the parents as well as for their children. You might have a big wall calendar in the kitchen but as soon as you are out of the house, you can’t access the information, emphasizes Lina; and you would probably agree, organisation is not just about using a calendar. Journl offers among other things different tools like shopping, money and to-do lists…” As a matter of fact you can also store and collect as much documents as you want in different sections. “A clear design, easy of use tools, a well organised front page where I can put my own sections like Family, Me, Projects… it’s very appealing, tells Dana, mother of two and self-employed. My favourite tool at Journl is the check-list where you can really tick off and see all the done work.”
Currently Journl is available to one user who has the option to share a section for example with a partner, or a group of friends. This can be very useful when you plan holidays together! Concerned about security? Continue Reading
The end of April 2014 found me starting the writing project for my book
Bringing Up Children between Cultures.
The main idea behind my book is to interview bi-cultural couples in Oxfordshire
about their day-to-day experiences. This involves couples in which both partners
come from different countries, speak different languages,
and have different traditions, habits and therefore different parenting styles.
Through anecdotes, stories and their own personal perspectives,
these couples will illustrate how enriching and sometimes challenging
parenting can be between different cultures.
Fin avril a commencé l’aventure du livre
“Familles bilingues : la parentalité entre les cultures”.
L’idée est d’interviewer des couples vivant dans le comté d’Oxford
sur leur expérience quotidienne avec deux ou plusieurs cultures,
langues, traditions, habitudes et styles d’éducation…
A travers des anecdotes, des récits et
des analyses personnelles, ils mettent en avant combien il est enrichissant
mais aussi délicat d’être parents entre plusieurs pays.
(lisez la suite en français en bas, merci)
For today, here is an exclusive extract from the interview of a franco-colombian couple, Elise and Manuel (pseudonyms), parents of a nine months baby. During the interview we tackled the issue of being pregnant in Britain. They shared how challenging it was for them to bridge the gap between their cultural expectations and those of their host country. Continue Reading
When you see him walking in East Oxford with his dog Norman, green wellies, relaxed, smiling, probably daydreaming –you may not believe it, but he is the star of many Oxfordian children and their parents. “As I lie here in my bed, I should be sleeping bit instead…” is one of our favourites at home, closely followed by “Let’s take a walk…” and we love singing them in the kitchen at the top of our voice whilst trying to prepare diner.
- If you don’t know Nick yet, I would really recommend that you join one of his sessions which are all over Oxford and beyond. His music captivates the whole family!
- If you know Nick already, I am sure that you will be delighted to discover a little more who this is behind trendy glasses and the guitar. Enjoy this little chat we had around tea and sparkling water.
Nick, let us make a time travel and take us with you back to your childhood: singer, book, toy – what were your number ones?
Mhhhh (he smiles and looks like when he’s singing with the children) give me some seconds to remember. My very, very first musician was… Mary Hopkins, a folk singer – she is stuck in my mind I think because Mum and Dad had an autograph from her, she sang the famous “Those were the days” Knowing that will reveal my age… (he grins).
My favourite toy, this is easy, going back to the late 60s, it’s a little figure, an astronaut called Billy Blastoff.
And then, a book read by my parents… let me think, not to confuse with the books I have read to my children… Ah yes, my favourite book was Harry the dirty dog (Gene Zion)!
When did you discover the guitar?
I was about 13! We did the recorder at school and my sister was learning the guitar from a little old lady in our village. I just couldn’t figure out, how that could possibly work when you have 8 notes but only 6 strings… I was baffled and wanted to work it out. I took some lessons with the little old lady and later started in a band, when I was about 14. Later on, I was 15 or so, we played on Saturday evenings at “The Oranges and Lemons” which was a very famous Punk Rock pub at that time (today “The Angel and Greyhound”).
As a child did you know that you will become a singer?
I guess that I was sure to do something creative, because that’s what my parents used to do. I think you often follow your parents’ footsteps. And to be in an artistic family helps when you have projects like that – you find it easier to believe in yourself. Continue Reading
During the last 70 years the world around birth has definitely changed: mothers are encouraged to eat and drink during labour, fathers are allowed and even expected to attend the birth, mothers can breastfeed confidently in public, parents are advised to choose their birthplace carefully…
Thanks also to the campaigns, contri-butions and engagements by the National Childbirth Trust, better known under the name NCT, these facts are now established. Set up 1957, the charity counts today 5,000 volunteers and more than 100,000 members in 320 local branches.
NCT’s main idea: Support for new parents on your doorstep for the first 1,000 days – which means from conception to the second birthday of your child.
What does NCT offer in Oxford? Different courses and activities are set up by the local branch: ante-and postnatal courses, a group about home birth support, Baby cafés (Breastfeeding support), First Aid courses, Bumps & Babies group, Speed Bump and Coffee groups. NCT Oxford offers also a hire service for Valley Cushions (to help mothers who have difficulties to sit after giving birth).
What are Bumps & Babies, Speed Bumps and Coffee Morning groups? One of the main aims of NCT is to offer places where parents-to-be and young parents can meet one another. There is nothing worse than to stay alone with this new and often overwhelming experience of expecting or having a baby.
- Coffee Mornings come off twice a month at a volunteer’s home. It’s a friendly and informal meeting between parents! Drop in whenever you can make it with your baby from 10am to noon. Need to talk about bad nights, want to have some good advice about weaning or just happy to have a chat with other parents – this is the right place to be! There’re two Coffee Morning Groups in Oxford: one South/East Oxford, another in West Oxford.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org (Sarah)
- Bumps & Babies takes place every Tuesday from 10.30am until noon at Wesley Memorial Church (New Inn Hall Street – OX1 2DH). Pregnant or with a tiny one (up to walking age), you are more than welcome! In a pleasant atmosphere there’re some toys for the babies and refreshments for the adults!
Contact: email@example.com (Hannah)
- Speed Bumps is a social event for parents-to-be, in the spirit of “speed dating” but simply for couples who are expecting a baby. Keep your eyes and ears open, the local NCT Team do their best to set up the next one in the summer of this year!
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org (Sarah)
Do I need to have a membership? Continue Reading
Autre pays, autres mœurs! Et c’est aussi valable pour la mode enfantine. À nouveau j’observe la « coolness » au sens propre du terme des petits Anglais qui semblent ne pas aimer les gros pulls, ni les doudounes.
Est-ce pour défier les nuages qui s’arrêtent régulièrement au-dessus de l’île britannique (enfin, avouons-le, la France n’est pas vierge dans la matière non plus !) ou par coquetterie ? La question reste ouverte. Continue Reading
Quand nos loupiots font leurs premiers pas, on est aux anges.
Et même s’ils ne courent pas tout de suite, arrive vite le moment de traverser la route. « Alors on regarde à gauche… ehhh non à droite, avant de traverser ! » C’est fou comme c’est ancré dans notre subconscient de regarder d’abord à gauche et de déclencher ainsi des grincements de freins et le courroux (« Ah ! c’est continentaux, alors ! ») des conducteurs ou cyclistes anglais.
Notre aînée qui crapahute entre l’île et le continent, en perd un peu son latin : « Dis maman, pourquoi, ici avant de traverser il faut regarder d’abord à droite et ensuite à gauche ? » Mystère et boule de gomme ! Continue Reading