Your Multilingual Child’s School Vocabulary In Your Language

by Corey · 4 comments

By Corey Heller
This article originally appeared in Multilingual Living Magazine.

Each day your child goes to school and picks up a tremendous amount of new vocabulary.  How can you even imagine keeping up with this kind of language explosion in your own language?

The truth is, you can’t.  However, you can make a difference by incorporating school subjects into your discussions at home in your language.  We aren’t talking about repeating everything at home that your child has learned in school!  No need for that.  Just find ways to discuss the same topics – it will give you the chance to use words like Medieval and estuary and multiplication.

Here are tips on how to repeat the same subjects at home…

Start by finding out which subjects your child is covering in school.
Either you can ask your child what was covered that day in school or ask to see the papers and books that he or she brought home.  Don’t be too obvious! Otherwise your child might start to feel that you are invading his or her privacy.  Another way to go about this is to talk to your child’s teacher. Explain that you are raising your child in more than one language and would like to talk about the same subjects at home.  Explain how this not only will help your child become truly bilingual, it will also mean additional focus on the school topics.  Help your child’s teacher understand why it is a good thing all around.

Gather materials.
It is easier to cover the same topics when you already have resources on hand to utilize.  Books, DVDs, access to internet programs and print-outs – all of these will help to facilitate numerous discussions. If you can afford it, think about getting an encyclopedia in your language! However, if you can’t get your hands on books and DVDs, just use resources in the community language (for example your child’s school materials) and use them to start a discussion in your language.  The main goal is to use your language in the context of topics that you wouldn’t normally discuss, all of which can be done verbally.

Come up with a plan.
When it comes to making a plan, you are better off NOT sitting your child down and saying, “Ok, time to go over your school subjects in my language,” unless you want to receive a sigh of boredom and rolled eyes in response.  Instead, you need to find ways to help your child become interested in such a discussion. For example, you can say, “Oh, wow, you are learning about King Arthur in school.  That is fabulous!  I remember learning about King Arthur.  My favorite parts of the story were…”.  And since you are prepared, pull out the books that you have ready on the shelf and start going through them with your child. And don’t forget about the great internet sites that are available to review with your child.  The key is to make it interesting as well as informative.

Have fun!
You have heard it said a million times already in Multilingual Living Magazine that having fun is the most important aspect in helping children learn our languages.  There is no difference when it comes to covering school subjects with your child in your language.  Try to remember what inspired you the most when studying the same subjects and instill your child with that same joy.  Don’t forget: you do not need to teach your child the subject again – your child’s teacher has already done that in school.  Just find ways to include your language’s vocabulary so that your child will have enough exposure.

You can’t cover everything.
There will be some subjects and topics which you won’t be able to cover for one reason or another.  Don’t worry about it!  The fact that you are even covering any subject is a wonderful bonus to your child. So don’t dwell on the things that you aren’t able to accomplish and the areas which are left unaddressed.  Focus on the positive side!

Remember that repetition is the key to learning a language. Each time your child hears a word used in context, the better he or she will learn it.  Finding excuses to use our vocabulary is the fun of raising children in more than one language.  Try not to let this aspect become exhausting.  This is what makes it so creative and unique and special.

Additional Resources:
Amazon is still a favorite location for families around the world looking for resources in their language.  Shipping can be expensive so be prepared.  Website:

Even though there is a lot of junk out there on, there is also a tremendous amount of wonderful language resources!  From TV programs from your country to more informal videos, take some time after your kids go to bed to do some researching.  Website:

Enchanted Learning
The site looks a little funky with low quality graphics and links located all over the place but despite this, the site continues to grow and add more and more useful resources.  One of the exciting additions the last few years has been their focus on language resources.  Currently they have fun resources in eight different languages.  Website:

This site is packed with print-outs for all kinds of subjects.  It is in English but you can either use the site to get ideas for self-made print-outs or just use those in English and have your child do everything in your language.  Website:

A to Z Home’s Cool
This is a homeschooling website packed with resources and information about different school subjects.  Most things are in English but you can use the ideas, tips, and much more to spearhead your home discussions in your language.  Website:

Corey Heller is the founder of Multilingual Living and the Editor-In-Chief/Publisher of Multilingual Living Magazine. Multilingual Living is the place where she shares her knowledge about raising multilingual and multicultural children. Corey, an American, and her German husband live in Seattle where they raise and homeschool their three children, ages 14, 12 and 10, in German and English.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Stephanie June 6, 2010 at 2:46 am

Thanks for the ideas – I’m off to look for things about the circus!


2 Study ESL in Cebu October 27, 2010 at 2:59 am

this post is so informative,..thanks for posting..


3 Study ESL in Cebu October 27, 2010 at 3:05 am

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4 Liliana August 26, 2011 at 9:04 am

Thanks so much for this article! My trilingual daughter started pre-k two days ago and she has already learned a bunch of new things.


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