Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Moments: Raising Bilingual Kids

Raising bilingual kids in another country has some interesting moments. This week at my sons' school is literature week.

They read a ton of different books and encourage parents to come in to tell a story or read a favorite from their library.

The thing is, though, I am not fluent in Portuguese. Having children who are fluent in a different language will quickly point out how unfluent you are. Case in point would be a friend of my son's reaction to me saying "It is fun" in Portuguese. He frowned and declared that I speak funny therefore he does not understand me.

Considering all this I am pretty stoked to be scheduled to read a children's book in Portuguese tomorrow for my son's class. It is a book that we have been reading every other day for about 2 weeks so I feel I have it down. Of course my audience speaks Rachel...

So in a way my sons have brought me back to adolescence but not in the way I thought. I thought that I would be reliving mine via their uncomfortable moments. I never expected to be reliving mine through more of my own uncomfortable moments. Not fair. I really must have karmically crapped on someone important in a past life.

On a side note, reading out loud makes me nervous. Got to love how children make you push your own limits. 


  1. Good luck! You'll be great! Just remember that waiter guy at the beach who complimented you. :) :)

  2. I completely understand and relate! But do you know what has been happening to me lately (this school year)? Even though I need to pay SUPER-ATTENTION to whatever a child/classmate of my son says to me, whether it be on the bus, at my house, on the street or at the school, I usually have to say a big "OI?" and let it pass over my ears and brain a second time to process, a big Mommy duh, but the attention required to process every single word, especially, kid words and voices! But the funny thing is, they understand me, and really seem to want to engage me in coversation which can be a bit flustering, but I am liking it...kids are super-honest so I think I can't be *that* bad in Portuguese if they actually want to take their kid energy to talk to me. Great for self confidence when Portuguese seems like such a curse in my life! God bless 5 year olds!

  3. And forgot to say "kudos to you...YOU GO!" Best of luck tomorrow, I'm sure you'll shine through, you'll be a high-point in their day! Enjoy!!!! OMG these boys are growing too quickly. I am afraid I will turn around one of these days and mine will be taller than me with a man voice. We must enjoy every kid moment!

  4. Wow, Rachel, I really relate, and I don't have kids! But our nephew is coming for the Summer, and maybe longer, and I'm already flashing on me embarrassing him in the neighborhood, at church, in the park. It's hilarious how nervous I am!

    I also had a little girl, of about 4, correct my Portugues "Nao, senhora- andaR- nao anda- com cachorro." I was letting her walk my dog. I was apppreciative but more so humbled!

    Rachel..why aren't you fluent? You're making me nervous! Haven't you been here FOREVER? <3

  5. Rachel,

    Have you considered enrolling your kids in French or German, starting at around age 6? I would go for German since it seems more difficult to jump from English to German than from Portuguese to French (their two base languages at age 6). This way they get the harder one over with first hence taking better advantage of the learning window for languages which closes with time.

    Another great option is learning a musical instrument This is recommended for all ages.

    Sorry for such a geeky message, been studying this so...


  6. A couple months into my first trip to Brazil, I was just beginning to get confident in Portuguese... and then I was invited to speak to a kindergarten class.

    I introduced myself, said where I was from, that I was studying in Brazil and happy to be here. I asked if anybody had any questions about me or about the U.S.

    A very distressed 5-year-old then raised her hand and said, "I don't understand! I don't know if she's speaking in Portuguese or English?"

    Instant confidence killer!

  7. Thanks guys!

    Jennifer- I have no formal Portuguese training (minus a 3 week course that really did nothing for me). So I am far from perfect even though I can have conversations and understand about 99% of stuff. So I'm fully functional in the language but need some perfecting. I plan on getting a private teacher once we move to our new place in November and things calm down.

    Brasilicana, ouch! lol

  8. How about a post focusing on Portuguese acquisition methods (courses, schools, tips and tricks, recommended teachers and so forth). Those who comment can use the message box to share their experiences and provide info as well.

    Below is my pick for best introductory Portuguese course. I give it the GSA (Gritty Seal of Approval). Seriously though, although it is taught using Portugal's accent it is very effective. I don't think using vocabulary more popular in Portugal will hinder a person in Brazil, he/she will just seem somewhat more formal when speaking (oftentimes a good thing). It would be better though if MT offered a Brazilian version of the same course but from what I have seen, even using Portugal's version, it is still the best introductory Portuguese course in the market.

  9. And I forgot the link. Here it is.


  10. A message previous to the link was not published. Anyway in it I suggested a post where people could offer info concerning Portugese acquisition (courses, tips and tricks etc) in the message box. I then offered my tip which is the Michel Thomas Introductory Portuguese Course ( which I forgot to link). Anyway I also mentioned that this course is taught in Portugal's version of the language and beside being a small hindrance, it is somewhat more formal speaking, I still think it is the best intro course out there.


  11. Grit,
    I don't know if or when we'll add a third language. The hubs is pushing for French.

    I would love to have them play a musical instrument. I learned them and their relationship to language acquisition in Uni. I wish we had space for a piano.

    thanks for the links :)

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  13. Ah, I see Rachel. Whew. I was thinking if cool chick Rachel can't do it in Rio, there's no way I'll do it in Rondonia! I'm not really sure the definion of fluent, either. 'Cuz I think having 99% and being able to discuss medical issues on the phone is darn skippy!

  14. Good work!
    To Brasilicana - I've totally had kids say to me "Do you know how to speak Portuguese?" after I've just been speaking to them for five minutes in Portuguese! And this after years and years in Brazil. So I attribute it more to kids in Brazil not having much exposure to different accents, rather than to the level of my Portuguese. Or at least that's what I tell myself. ;)

    Overheard the other day from a certain 3 year old who has been watching too much Dora the Explorer, "Eu sei falar English e português e espanol e bonjour!" Right.

  15. I speak Spanish. My husband speaks English. Our babysitter speaks Spanish. However, our daughter (25 months) speaks (so far) mostly English :-(. She has a few words in Spanish that she uses consistently and accurately, and she understands Spanish, but her vocabulary is mostly composed of English words and phrases. I didn't want her to watch much TV before the age of 2, but now I'm exposing her to cartoons in Spanish. We'll see if that motivates her to start producing in her second language :-)