Our Multicultural Kids
“Hola, Hello, Ciao, Bonjour, Hallå”. Eight children, one playdate, five different languages. Seems a bit confusing doesn’t it? Well for our group of multicultural friends and their kids , it has become the norm, and our children have learned to embrace it.
I live with my husband and 2 boys in the south of Italy, in a small town where foreigners are almost non-existent. It is a huge coincidence that my husband and some of his close friends married women from different cultures and that we all ended up settling in Italy, (for now). But a good one for us in that we all know what it is like to be living away from our families, and are able to support each other.
We didn’t really hear each other’s native languages much before, as from the beginning we have always communicated in Italian, the community language. It was when we all started having children that meet-ups and playdates got interesting.
Our native languages are English, French, Spanish, and Swedish and at present we have 8 multilingual children between us, aged from 4mths and 5yrs old.
Each of us speak to our children in our native languages.
We are all using the OPOL method with our children, and Italian is the community language that they speak between themselves. It is not uncommon for us to be speaking all five languages in one conversation if we have our children around, especially as some of the languages cross over with a couple of our children being able to speak others.
Most of the children understand at least some English, and I try to stick to English when speaking with any of them, translating sometimes if they can’t understand. My eldest son, J4 speaks some Spanish, so he is able to understand and join in the Spanish conversation.
We get many strange looks when we’re at the park all together, when we are speaking with our children individually, but also when we are speaking with one another, as not one of us has a native accent in Italian.
Having lived in Rome for over 6 years before moving down south recently, I never really experienced this sort of thing as Rome is such an international city full of foreigners. All of my friends there were English natives, and with so many ex-pats around, we just mingled in. Here in the south of Italy it is very different, foreigners are rare, and you stand out, especially in a group.
It must sound like it would get confusing but we are used to it, and it works. We have all learned bits and pieces from one another and we are able to enjoy a multicultural friendship.
Our children are the lucky ones though, being exposed to so many languages so early in life, and to so many different cultures. We like to celebrate Italian holidays together, but also each other’s native festivities too, so they get to learn not only the Italian way of life, but also see the difference in their friends’ family lives.
Birthday parties are always exciting, with different games played and different food offered. Singing “Happy Birthday” in our different languages each time is always fun, they kids look forward to that part most of all, they love it.
Each of them are aware that they each speak different languages, and it makes them curious. When they meet other foreigners speaking an unknown language to them, they ask about it and want to know where they are from, and what language it is they are speaking. With so many advantages of children growing up multicultural, I am happy my children are being able to experience it.