• Loie Favre

How to create a multilingual household: 7 bilingual home tips

Learning a new language is something that we all strive to do in one way or another. And we hope that our children will also follow in the same interests, as speaking a new language opens many doors for bilingual jobs or for personal interests. Here are some fun ways to create a multilingual, language learning household, and gain from the bilingual advantage down the line.

Bilingual education doesn't just need to happen at school.

Fill your house with books of different languages

For yourself and for your kids, if you already know a language and like to read, the best thing to do is having books around your house in that new language. There are bilingual books where one page in one language is right next to the page in another, allowing you to refer back to your mother tongue. Don’t get lazy and only read your native language though.

For kids, you can fill up their rooms with comics, which are always captivating. Growing up, I loved ones like Lucky Luck, Tintin, Asterix et Obelix, etc. as my parents encouraged our bilingual household.

Stock your pantry with international ingredients and cook books from all over the world

Depending on the language you like, a great idea is to have cookbooks that are from that country containing authentic recipes. You will get to know the local food culture and vocabulary, making your knowledge of that language and country much more well-rounded. You may not find all ingredients if it is something really exotic, however, a quick trip to Google search can provide you with lots of alternatives. I've been down the “how to make an eggless, milkless, butterless, or what have you cake” road before, not because I am a vegan, but just because I don’t let the lack of an ingredient stand in my way.

International cuisine is a great way to have a great cultured vibe at home for you and your family. Image by @hana-brannigan

Have a map of the world on the wall

Chances are you don’t have one, and though it may not fit your house’s vibe, but the problem with a lot of people, including myself, is the lack of geographical knowledge. I really am not the best when it comes to some Middle-Eastern or African country naming, and I feel bad about it. Having a map helps a lot. And your kids will be able to impress their friends when they can name the capital of some far-off country.

Having a map also helps you and your kids understand where languages are spoken. You can even focus on multilingual countries, like Switzerland and Canada. Image by @pixabay

Incorporate languages into your games night

You and our fam jam might be big fans of game night, tearing up that Monopoly board and letting your competitive edges run wild. Let’s mix things up and make it a language board game night. Use your scrabble game or buy a new one and spell out words in that new language. Even if you do use some Franglais or some Denglish, you are still on the right track.

Use Scrabble, Taboo and other board games in other languages that you are learning. Image by @pixabay

Practice foreign cultural traditions in your home

The super cool thing about the travel is that there are just so many crazy, cool and jaw-dropping cultural things that we discover each time. Your status quo is not that in another country, and you’ve really got to have an open-mind and try to feel the vibe of each new place and event. For example, in Montenegro, life is just so totally different in so many ways, and it’s easy to poo-poo on some things you just don’t understand at first, but by talking to locals, you get to understand their culture bit by bit.

This brings me to what you can do at home - incorporate some cultural traditions that you have discovered abroad and bring them home. For example, in Argentina they prepare yerba mate, which they drink with a bombilla and a special cup. My Argentinean friend introduced this to me, and I just love it. My friends that have been to India could incorporate some of the things they learned there in their home life, like yoga and meditation from the ashram. Also, there are so many traditional dances from around the world. Learning one as a family would make for a lot of laughs.

Encourage foreign movie nights as a family

Don’t be put off by subtitles. They really don’t suck, and if you can’t get over it, you’ll be missing out on so many great foreign films. Just to prove it, a foreign film Parasite won the award for Best Picture at last year’s Oscars. With that being said, some of my favourite films are “foreign”, and in my case, mostly they are French because I am in love with that culture. My favourite movie of all time is “8 Femmes” with Catherine Deneuve, Fanny Ardent and Ludivine Saignier. As for kids, they will love foreign movies too, so don’t be afraid to really encourage them at first. For kids, some great films could be Aschenputtel, the German Cinderella, or again, the absolutely hilarious real-life Asterix from France.

Have family chats with another family on Zoom or another platform like Skype or Google Meet

If you guys are really gung-ho about learning a new language, then you could try having not a tandem partner but a tandem family. That is another family that you may know already or that you have found on the internet where you help each other in learning a new language. For example, a family from Germany and a family from Canada could get to know each other, and maybe even meet in person one day.