The ABCs of Multilingual Parenting: The Letter M

by Corey · 2 comments

M is for… Masterminding!

They say that children are like language sponges. But is this really true? Do children just sit in a room passively listening to what is around them and pick up everything without lifting a finger? No!

Children learn languages as well as they do because they are engaged, involved, curious and motivated. What looks like passive listening is actually a cover-up for a cognitive workout of the highest proportions. Children try things out and push limits. They don’t worry about mistakes and they give everything they’ve got.

In fact, children aren’t even really “learning” a language.  They are taking control of every minuscule aspect of it and making it into a tool of their very own making. This isn’t being a passive sponge, this is taking an active role in becoming a fully functioning language-industrial-complex. And children do all of this while having a fantastic time! This “work” is the most enjoyable thing in the world for a child.

Where do we, as parents, come into the picture? And what does masterminding have to do with it?

For our children to create their language-industrial-complex, they need help from us, their linguistically replete parents who hold the keys to a world of linguistic fascination and abundance. Our job is to provide our children with the most linguistically bountiful environment possible. We need to become nothing less than language environment masterminds; to use our creative powers to construct an environment where language is as abundant, attractive and beneficial as air.

As air?
Yes! As air!

How do we do this!? Is it expensive? Where do we get the ingredients to create a linguistically bountiful environment?

Ah, that is the beauty of it. Not only does it not cost a thing, it gives us as parents an active role in our children’s language experience. All we need is a good dose of creative thinking and a whole lot of love – and last I checked, those two things are free!

Talk: Discussions, conversations, sharing an opinion, asking questions, giving answers… all of these things bathe our children in language and give our children the chance to use language in return. Each time a word is spoken, our children come to learn how to pronounce it and learn what it means. And each time our children use a word in a sentence, they are given the opportunity to try out the fruit of their linguistic labors.

Read: Books, newspapers, magazines, signs, menus, instruction manuals, recipes… read whatever you can out loud and give your children the opportunity to read things out loud to you! Words and sentences in written materials are often very different from spoken conversation and the context is what we all need to learn words and their meanings. Your children need these words and sentences. Read to your children from as many different sources as possible. Make sure your children are given the opportunity to ask what words and sentences mean. Each time they do, their language-industrial-complex is becoming more efficient and producing even more lovely products.

Music: CDs, DVDs, YouTube, concerts, festivals, sing-alongs… find ways to share all kinds of music in your language with your children. Also share music without words that is written by composers from your native country. The key is to expose your child to a variety of different artists and genres. Not only will your child pick up the language but a connection with culture will also start to form.

Togetherness: There is no substitute for time spent with your child. Language mastery is a collaborative effort. It may be true that your child can say a lot of words from using the latest iPad language app that you purchased, but does your child actually comprehend what those words mean? Is your child really mastering a language? Or is your child learning how to repeat words and master technology? These are very different things. Spending time with you, having conversations with you, hearing you read a book out loud are far more beneficial and have far more impact than any language program can ever have. Don’t take my word on it, give it a try and see the results for yourself!

Becoming a language mastermind means being creative to the highest degree. It means finding ways to give your child a linguistically rich environment without your child feeling like you are doing so. A mastermind sees the whole picture and creates a broad framework that looks beyond just today and this moment. It is someone who understands how element interact and influence one another. Take the step into becoming a mastermind and you will enjoy it so much that you’ll never want to go back! Your child will be forever grateful!

We are going through the alphabet one letter at a time, multilingual-style! Join in the fun and add your own ideas, suggestions and tips in the comments below that begin with today’s letter! Check out all of the ABC’s of Multilingual Parenting posts so far!

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.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Franck May 17, 2011 at 2:43 pm

This is a great post. I like this idea of “masterminding” a lot, and integrating the Talk, Read, Music, Togetherness.

And I would just add Play also. Playing with my daughter and her dolls and puppets is a great way to play in a second language in an interactive way. It allows us to role play and practice the French language.


2 Ron May 18, 2011 at 2:40 am

Hi, Corey; Good post, and I’m glad I stumbled on to your blog. I’m adding you to my list of resources for families. (Check out my blog, and go to the resources section to find your link.). I hope I can push some friends toward your site.


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