Bilingual Children

People are always surprised when they meet me and my family  and they hear us talk. I always speak to my children in Spanish and they always answer back in English, we have always done this and for us it’s normal but strangers find it a bit weird.

When I was pregnant I had this idea that I’d always talk to my children in Spanish, that they’d be able to visit my family in Spain and talk to their relatives in my language, but unfortunately it hasn’t happened. My children understand everything in Spanish but they don’t want to speak it.

I have read a bit into the subject and apparently their behaviour is normal, children should not be forced, and they should not see speaking another language as a chore. I keep saying to them that knowing Spanish is cool and we could talk between ourselves a no one else around would know what we are talking about – a bit like a secret code, but they still don’t want to do it.


There are many advantages of speaking more than one language, bilingual children are supposed to have better analytical, social and academic skills.

I always get told things like “Don’t give up, carry on speaking to them in Spanish, one day they will speak it” or “Don’t give up, teaching them another language is the best gift you can give them. Yes, I know, I know, but I don’t want to be reminded millions of times, especially by random strangers.

I will not give up, I will carry on as we are. I have been living in the UK for nearly 20 years but I am Spanish after all, my kids are half Spanish and I really think it’s really important for them to understand this, and hopefully one day we will be able to speak to each other in  my language.

Has anyone got any tips or advice in raising bilingual children? I’d love to hear what other people do

12 thoughts on “Bilingual Children

  1. As a French woman, raising my children in the US, your post did talk to me ! I, too, talk to my kids only in my native language, and they, too, answer… in English ! I am not sure I have specific tips to share but you may find some good blogs on raising bilingual kids. I enjoy reading this one, but you may find one focused on Spanish/English bilingualism. Good luck !
  2. Hi! i live in Catalonia, my partner is Catalan and speaks to the boys in Catalan and I speak to them in English. When they were younger, they didn't answer in English, but then when boy 1 was about 3 he started to and now they switch freely and with ease between the two. (They also speak Spanish thanks to Dora the Explorer and their school!) I remember reading somewhere that a great way to reinforce a language is to make it a language they play in, so you need to find them some Spanish mates, who they only speak Spanish to! Sorry if this doesn't help! Also, tv in Spanish.. films.. cartoons etc.. Good Luck! x
    1. Thanks very much for your comment. I agree with you in making Spanish the language to play in, need to get more dvds and books for them I am sure we will get there eventually
  3. Thank you for this post. I'm speaking to my boy in Danish... he is only four months though so doesn't really speak any language yet :-) But I now know not to get panicky or disappointed if he doesn't want to speak Danish as he grows up. I hope he does, but either way I'll carry on speaking Danish to him. Nadia - ScandiMummy x
    1. Thanks for your comment Nadia. I think they will eventually speak it but I guess they hear mainly English, so that will always be the dominant language. I read once they need to hear the second language 20% of their time to be able to be confident speakers. I need to try more dvds and books in Spanish. Good luck, your baby is still young, he might be ok
  4. I'm an English mum in France raising 2 bilingual boys. I have always spoken English to them and their French dad speaks French to them and obviously they hear a lot more French daily around them, especially at local school. I have always made sure English isn't just seen as an annoying thing with mum but useful and fun and ever since they were tiny we went to English playgroups, English singing classes and I made sure they had English play dates. When they were young enough that I could control TV I made sure programmes were all in English. I used to go to England often with them to visit cousins, grandparents etc and in between we skyped English relatives regularly.I don't think you can just assume kids will be bilingual and you need to work at it, basically making them see that it's not just a language between them and you. See if you can find some Spanish speaking groups near you to join and also online such as Facebook which should be full of advice and support. It can seem lonely at times and a struggle but with support and some Spanish-speaking friends I'm sure you'll start to see the rewards. My boys are now 10 and 15 and fully bilingual (including written) and the oldest goes to an international school where everyone is from somewhere else and speaking only 2 languages is considered unusual, most speak 3 or 4. Multilingualism is cool! Good luck, I'm sure you'll succeed.
    1. Thanks a lot for your advice. I totally agree that I have to work at it and this is what I am going to do.. Unfortunately for me all my Spanish friends with children living in the UK are in the same position as me. I will keep up at it and hope I will succeed. Thanks for taking the time to reply
  5. Hi! I'm an italian mum raising a bilingual child in Germany. I've noticed big progresses in Italian after my son spent some time alone with my parents in Italy. He hadn't any choice then, but speaking "our" language. This helped the process a lot and after that he spoke much more and much better italian than before. A big hug and good luck!
    1. Thanks for your reply Mara. I think this is what I might have to do, too, maybe send him with my parents to Spain, I have friends that have done that successfully.
  6. I think it is so important to keep going - I am pretty sad that I am not bilingual even though my mom speaks another language. It is such a great gift! I am now trying to gt my little daughter to grow up as bilingual :)

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