Top Ten 2012 New Year’s Resolutions for Multilingual Families

by Corey · 13 comments

Is your family’s multilingualism going along smoothly? Everyone chatting away in the minority languages? Fantastic! Stick with it in 2012!

For the rest of us, here are some top 10 New Year’s Resolutions you’ll want to have for 2012.

Let’s start the countdown…

10. Spend more time with the kids. We say it all the time but how much down-time do we really spend with our children? Driving from one activity to another in the car and chatting doesn’t really count (maybe it counts for 1/4 point). Going for a leisurely walk together does. Sitting in front of the fire with a hot mug of cocoa counts. Shut off all devices and hanging out together counts big time.

9. Read out loud. No matter how old our children are, we should be reading out loud to them every day/evening. We don’t have to talk about the details of the story each time. Just come together to enjoy the experience! Put together a list of books that everyone will most likely enjoy and get started. Read at least one chapter an evening and watch the magic begin. Snuggling together while reading out loud is an imperative!

8. Play more games together. Find fun indoor and outdoor games that the family can play together. The key word is: together. Pick out collaborative board games or head outside for an easy, fun game of soccer. Not sure where to find good board games? Do a Google search for “best board games” – the number of sites that come up is amazing. Start by finding games that interest you and then make suggestions to your family. Keep an eye on games that have won awards recently or in the past few years.

7. Shut off the devices. How often do we “spend time together” while staring at our individual digital devices? That does not count as family time. Shut off all devices and have an evening of quiet time together. Light candles and turn on one device, the CD player, so that you can listen to a book on tape or a classical music CD.

6. Discussion matters. We spend a lot of time talking at one another: telling our children to pick up their toys, reminding our spouse about a dental appointment, calling everyone to the dinner table. To really solidify language learning in our families, we need to have discussions. We need to communicate with one another in meaningful ways without time pressure. Not only will our children be picking up our language, it will also gives us the opportunity understand how our children see and experience our world.

5. Make meals together. We often hear about the importance of eating meals together but what about preparation? Our children should be next to us in the kitchen helping us make the family meals as often as possible. It is a wonderful way to have conversations with our children without the pressure of specific “discussion time.” While cutting carrots and stirring pots we calm down and get to know one another better.

4. Get to know other families. Our children need to see us with others who speak our languages. Our children also need to spend time with other children who can speak their minority language (even if the children choose not to speak the language when together). Show your children that your language is part of a larger world by getting to know other families who speak your language. Start a language playgroup/group to bring people together.

3. Do some language experiments. Have fun with multilingualism in your home. If what you are doing doesn’t seem to be working as well as you’d like, don’t be afraid to do a language experiment. Put away the community language books and DVDs and instead fill the shelves with minority language books and media, as Christianne did one summer. Just remember to have fun as a family in the process and make sure to spend the time helping your children transition into the change.

2. Refuse to give up. Just tell yourself that you are not going to give up. No matter what. You may need to change some things around, see #3 above, but whatever may come, don’t give up completely. Find out what you need to work on and focus on that first. Even if all you add is reading a chapter in a book out loud to your children each day, that is something! That is big! That is what not giving up is all about!

1. Be selfish! Multilingual parents focus on their children – a lot. This is good! But when is the last time we read a book, watched a movie, read websites, or listened to audio in our language (or our minority language) for our own pleasure? Now is the time! Watch a silly soap opera in the target language purely for the fun of it. Buy that book you have had your eye on at the book store but felt guilty of buying for yourself. Go for it! We often get so focused on our children and their language needs that we forget to enjoy our languages for the fun of it. And the biggest secret is that when we are feeling inspired by our languages, our children will notice!

May 2012 bring with it many wonderful multilingual moments for you and your family! Don’t forget about #1 on the list! Your inspiration, motivation and joy is key to this whole multilingual venture!

What are your top New Year’s Resolutions? Do you think you’ll be able to keep them?

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.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Felipe January 1, 2012 at 8:31 pm

What a great list Corey
I’m about to be a dad and we are a bilingual family and I will print this list and put it on a visible place in our house. I like the be selfish, cause it’s easier for me right now where there are no kids around to do that, but I know it will change very soon.
Thanks for your inspiration


2 Corey January 10, 2012 at 12:37 am

Thank you for the comment, Felipe! I’d be truly honored if you printed out the list to be able to read again and again. In fact, I should do that for myself! 😉 I totally forget about the selfish part over and over again even though it is so important.


3 Joshua January 3, 2012 at 9:08 am

That is a pretty good list. Right now, for me, #1 is the most difficult. I’m part of a bilingual family in Italy and I’ve recently opened my own english language school-but it’s in a different city so I can only see my daughter at weekends. This Christmas break has been great because we spent a lot of time together playing memory and learning the alphabet in english


4 Corey January 10, 2012 at 12:39 am

How heartbreaking to only be able to see your daughter on the weekends. I am sure your Christmas break was such a wonderful time!

Starting your own English language school sounds fantastic! I’m sure it is a lot of work but worth the effort. You are so right that #1 will probably be very difficult for a while until things get running smoothly again. But at least you are aware of how important it is! I forget all of the time!!!


5 Svetlin Simeonov January 4, 2012 at 6:03 am

Wow this is a great list for the New Year !!! I think that most of the people will consider that this is a hard to do, but we all should find some time for our closest people and for us of course.


6 Corey January 10, 2012 at 12:41 am

Thank you for your comment, Svetlin! I too need to follow this list more. It is so easy to forget how important these connections are for our children (and us!). Our children grow up so quickly – before we know it they will be out of the house! Yikes! At the very least we can use language exposure as the excuse to snuggle up together and read out loud as often as possible! 😉


7 Becky January 4, 2012 at 8:31 am

Wonderful post- great resolutions for all parents! This is a reminder to me to add a linguistic resolution to my list:)- My goal this year is to focus on Spanish at home, and also help the kids more with their Mandarin studies.


8 Corey January 10, 2012 at 12:42 am

Wow, what a great set of linguistic resolutions you have! All I need to do is to get my German stronger and that seems so difficult. Spanish and Chinese – fantastic! I’m sure you are going to accomplish it this year… one day at a time can make such a difference! Good luck from all of us here!


9 Anita@Second Language Learning Now January 5, 2012 at 6:32 pm

This is a great list that I will have to follow. For some reason, my French speaking husband seems to resist teaching French to our son because he is so frustrated (I think) at the fact that English speakers are so uninterested in other languages. He just wants to send our son back to his home for a couple of months and immerse him there. Strangely, I end up teaching more French to our son (and I am not a native speaker, and not really fluent, with highly imperfect pronunciation and I make grammar mistakes all the time) than my husband.

I’ll try out these some of the ideas that I haven’t tried before and see how they work.


10 Corey January 10, 2012 at 12:46 am

Even though it is frustrating that your husband is resisting speaking French with your children, I can also understand where he is coming from. However, maybe you can remind him that if he doesn’t speak with his children in French now, then when they DO come back from a couple of months in his home country, they won’t be used to speaking French with him (the one person that they CAN speak in French with)! At the very least he can be preparing them ahead of time and then be there for them when they get back. Plus, remind him of the benefits of accent when children learning it as early as possible! That should hopefully get him motivated! 😉


11 abbas January 7, 2012 at 6:00 am

hello corey

nice list but I am single so I am not the one who controls 🙂
would you consider people in my situation in upcoming post

thanks a lot


12 Corey January 10, 2012 at 12:43 am

Thanks for the comment, Abbas. I’d be happy to consider more posts about how single families can go about this but what, specifically are you thinking of? Are you single and trying to help your child(ren) learn another language?


13 Motivational posters by Jan January 25, 2012 at 10:36 pm

Very interesting tips! I’m not part of a multilingual family, but I saw this and read it out of curiousity as I’m trying to become bilingual myself (Native English, learning Japanese). I think I might look into the last step, and also maybe some of the others if I hang out with any of my Japanese friends who have children.


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