Friday, 8 June 2018

Expat, Nomad, Immigrant: Stories from Life Abroad - featuring Absolutely Prabulous

Welcome to my new guest post series which gives expats, nomads and immigrants a space to share their stories of life abroad and offers us a glimpse into their experiences.

The series launched with my own post, the story of how I ended up in Mexico all those years ago.  You can read it here:  Stories from Life Abroad - guest post series launch.  Last month's post was A Story of Ice and... Sun by Paola from The Elephant Mum

Each month there will be a new post by a different contributor.  They may or may not be bloggers, they could be from any country, living anywhere in the world as expats, immigrants or nomads.  The idea is to tell as wide a variety of stories and experiences of living abroad as possible, from many different viewpoints.

This series will keep running for as long as I continue to get contributions for it, so if you would like to take part, email me at mummyandthemexicans@gmail.com and I will be happy to send you the details.


Expat, Nomad, Immigrant: Stories From Life Abroad A Guest Post Series Featuring Absolutely Prabulous


This month's guest post is by the wonderful Prabs of Absolutely Prabulous.  
www.absolutelyprabulous.com is an award-winning blog, written by Prabs, a former London/Paris girl, now turned humorist, opinion-giver, observer, key-loser, housework avoider (it’s a long list) in Malta. Prabs writes about motherhood, marriage, Malta, midlife and anything she can get away with. Her greatest achievement is leaving the house with 3 kids (it’s ok, they’re all hers). Her biggest fear is running out of vodka & screwing up her kids (in that order). She's married to the luckiest man on earth (obviously).  Her best domestic tip is: wear sunglasses at home so you can’t see the mess. You can follow Absolutely Prabulous on FacebookInstagram and Twitter 

Expat, Nomad, Immigrant: Stories From Life Abroad A Guest Post Series Featuring Absolutely Prabulous

Can't Get Off The Island!


When the lovely Ruth of Mummy and the Mexicans, asked me to write something about expat life, I wasn’t sure what I’d come up with. I was also a bit worried about the potential tone/interpretation of my article. But as the Maltese say…mela

Am I an expat anymore? Technically we were when we left the UK with a then 14 month-old, only expecting to settle for three years before moving onto somewhere else(like so many others I’ve met over the years who thought the same thing). We’ve been here over 12 years so far…!  Like the characters in the TV series Lost we #CantGetOffTheIsland

It seems so many of us foreigners, as the Maltesers call anyone not born and brought up on this dusty island, get ‘stuck’ here.

Stuck on a strip of rock:
- 17 miles long, 9 miles wide that will never be cosmopolitan by sheer fact of being a small conservative island
- plagued with such bad drivers that by June 2017, there had already been as many road deaths as for the whole of 2016.
- with head-wrecking noise pollution from car hooting, endless fireworks, Wild West construction with no time limit etc
- where crimes seem to go uninvestigated and corruption is next level
- that is being destroyed by buildings on every last inch of space, even in the  protected zones
- where the overriding culture is not based on respect, manners or courtesy.

I sound like a whingeing ungrateful Brit abroad don’t I?

Expat, Nomad, Immigrant: Stories From Life Abroad A Guest Post Series Featuring Absolutely Prabulous


So why (and how) have Hubster and I stayed so long? In fact, why do SO many ‘foreigners’ (grrr…that word never gets easier to say) end up staying for years?


How have we ‘put up with’ the Mediterranean madness for this much time? (Hot-headed keyboard warriors, rest your hands…I say that with affection!)
Firstly and simplistically because nowhere is perfect or problem-free. If one hopes to find Utopia, one is in for a whole heap of disappointment.
Then, there are specific compelling reasons not to come back to the UK/move somewhere else (did I really just say that?):

The Sun, Sea, Sand Lifestyle is Addictive!


#300DaysOfSunshineBaby
Due to the incredible weather, the lifestyle here is an outdoors one. The phrase ‘weather permitting’ means ‘if it’s not too frickin hot’ not ‘if it’s not freezing and chucking it down’.  Winter al fresco dining is perfectly normal and the beach is fab in Autumn.
We live a short walk from the sea; it’s the backdrop to our life. Right off our doorstep, you can go for a coastal run, swim, snorkel, hunt for crabs, laze on the sand, eat at the beachside restaurant while watching the stunning waves (that you can hear from our house on certain days). If you’re more of a land lover, you can head up the hill through farmland for a hike through the traditional village where you see beautiful houses of character and villas. The whole package is a huge attraction for two people who grew up in a regular Indian family setting with nothing of the sort.



A former city lover who lived and worked in London and Paris (and grew up terrified of water), I have no wish to return to the urban life and am now never far from the sea or happier than when I’m in it. I’m writing this from one of my adopted offices, the beach club where my kids and I do Summer swim camp. Hubster now leaves work early twice a week to walk down (no tortuous train or car journeys) and join us for a swim, drink etc. It’s a simple unlavish life (this is no modern first world country) and yes I do miss my beloved London town, the the British countryside and so much more but it would take a lot to make me leave the lazy crazy Med!

Cost of Living


Our relatives visit Malta less often now as they feel it’s become less affordable since joining the euro and I also know people who left this little rock for the same reason.  Property (although significantly lower cost than UK housing), utilities and products are not cheap, yet you can still live well for less (and a girls’ night doesn’t set me back more than 35 quid for everything!). I do miss the range and breadth of UK goods and amenities but if I’m honest our lifestyle was pretty modest there because a lot of what was available was too pricey. Whilst we don’t live in a plush palace in Malta, our well-sized 4 bedroom, 3 bathroom coastal abode is a major step up from what we had in the UK.

Expat, Nomad, Immigrant: Stories From Life Abroad A Guest Post Series Featuring Absolutely Prabulous


Taxation


Malta has one of the most favourable tax statuses of anywhere in the world. It’s the reason why so many people who leave for bigger modern countries return. This little rock may be old-fashioned/undeveloped but the taxes are hard to beat!

Safety


The crime rate of other countries is unknown here. It’s totally common to see kids out of their parents’ view at a playground, alone in a shop (like it used to be in the UK) and on the beach with no adult etc. Childhood lasts longer here; again the outdoor lifestyle helps as there are inexpensive ways to have fun without having to pay ticket entry or pile into a cafe.

Healthcare


This will change once Brexit is enforced and we’ll no longer enjoy the privileges of free hospital care that we currently do as Brits. Seeing a specialist costs around 30 British pounds though so that helps.

Travel


Sorry but this is one of the things I can’t cope with when I visit the UK. The cost of going anywhere via public transport makes my hair fall out and the fricking congestion charge and parking drives me insane. Meanwhile, back in Malta, parking on a yellow while you hop out to grab some milk or parking legitimately for free (we don’t have parking metres) is the norm. Even if you use a paying car park, it’s subsidised if you use the attached supermarket/restaurant etc.

Language


English is widely spoken and you can get by without Maltese (although now we’ve stayed so long, perhaps we got it wrong re our kids not learning the local language in terms of respect/integration).


 Expat, Nomad, Immigrant: Stories From Life Abroad A Guest Post Series Featuring Absolutely Prabulous


Easy Come Easy Go


How many times have I forgotten my wallet only to be allowed to take items and go back at a later date to pay? Countless. We’ve even eaten out as a family and urged the proprietor to at least take our details and been told ‘Mela, I trust you’!

Just Life


As I said in Where is Home? despite the ‘three year max plan’, two more kids came along, they started school, we bought property… It just gets harder to leave. I’ve seen numerous people relocate every two years and the impact on the kids is huge. I’m a nomad; I’d gladly pack up and regularly move onto a new adventure just like a ‘real’ expat – and I know kids are resilient - but my kids love their life here and I’m not sure I have it in me to tear them away from it.

Are There Any Reasons to Give Up This Life and Return to the UK?


Expat, Nomad, Immigrant: Stories From Life Abroad A Guest Post Series Featuring Absolutely Prabulous


Yes! Again, going with the most simplistic one: family and friends. It’s hard not seeing one’s kids grow up in the bosom of a close network of grandparents, cousins etc. And while I love my friends in Malta, the ones I know from back home are special. And again, there are other reasons:

Malta is Insular


The chauvinistic and rather regressive way of thinking can be disheartening. Maltese nationals who’ve emigrated often say this is why they left. I’ve never been more aware of the island mentality than when I wrote one of my most viewed (and unintentionally controversial) articles Dear Malta, You're Breaking my Heart .  The uproar it caused (a government minister actually tried to get information on me) but also the number of people who came out in support, was eye-opening. You need steel cajones to talk publicly about Malta; I guess most people are protective towards their country of birth but I’ve honestly never encountered amore patriotic (often in an irrational way) or defensive nationality in my life (and I’ve lived in France!).
Not only does it get you down on a human level, it is frankly a concern if you are trying to raise your kids as considerate global citizens.

Due to Its Small Size, There is Limited Scope


You literally cannot compare the range of employment opportunities available on a small second-world island to those in a developed country such as the UK. For obvious reasons, jobs are scarce and career progression and opportunities can feel like a non-starter.

 Expat, Nomad, Immigrant: Stories From Life Abroad A Guest Post Series Featuring Absolutely Prabulous

Education


Assuming we haven’t totally ruined ourselves with school fees by then, I want my kids to have a British university education. I guess it’s what I know.

Brex**it


My heart sinks as my blood pressure simultaneously rises just typing that. I’m anxious over our future as we don’t know what will be agreed regarding British citizens currently residing in EU countries. I’m bereft that the once mighty British passport is now almost worthless. My whole adult life, I’ve enjoyed the advantages of a UK in the EU; I don’t know a life without that. I’m not a political animal so I can’t go into the rationale of why it didn’t benefit the UK to stay in, as widely propounded by many. What I do know is that life may become untenable for Brits living abroad.

Why Will We Not Move Back to the UK Any Time Soon?


Expat, Nomad, Immigrant: Stories From Life Abroad A Guest Post Series Featuring Absolutely Prabulous

The Man From Delmonte…He Says No!


Don’t shoot the messenger here (!) but to my shock and disbelief, Hubster says  he wouldn’t willingly move back to the UK. This is beyond my comprehension as it’s usually human nature to have an affinity with the country you grew up in. I love Blighty. Whilst I was happy to leave as I don’t want to live in the same country all my life, I am so proud to be British and despite my feelings about lifestyle, cost etc, I love going back. (Rumour has it: photos exist of me grinning like an excited tourist in front of a red bus/Buck House from our UK visits but I can’t confirm that.) I also love Londoners and tire of hearing that they are miserable and unhelpful. Every time I come back, this is not my experience.
But this life of turquoise waters, six months of flip flops, hot balmy nights and ice cream smiles…#NotReadyToGiveItUp

Two Epiphanies that Crystallised it All


A year after we arrived in Malta, I bumped into someone who’d shown us some properties at the start. She asked how we were settling in, well aware that some expats don’t last long. For this former city chick who had spent a year whingeing, the answer that came out was an unexpected turning point. Until that chance meeting at the supermarket deli counter (!) I hadn’t realised:

Once you stop obsessing over what Malta doesn’t have and start focussing on what it does have, life gets so much better.

More recently, some UK friends expressed their amazement we’re still here and asked when we’re coming back. How strange of people to just assume we plan to return we both thought!
This time Hubster came out with a response that is the most astute analysis of our (and most Malta expats’) situation I’ve heard:

“Malta may not have everything. But when you look at that world map and start making the list of countries that have all your ‘must haves’ (English language education, weather, safety, taxes, enjoyable easy lifestyle, healthcare etc), do you know how many countries are on that list?”

Yep. One little island south of Italy, west of Greece, just above Africa.

Starts with M, ends in A.

I live there.

Boom.


Expat, Nomad, Immigrant: Stories From Life Abroad A Guest Post Series Featuring Absolutely Prabulous


You can follow Absolutely Prabulous on FacebookInstagram and Twitter and do have a read of her blog, Absolutely Prabulous.

I hope you enjoyed this post - please share it or leave us a comment below!

Next month I have another brilliant guest post by Emily of My Adaptable Career.  Subscribe to my blog or the newsletter to make sure you don't miss it!







Expat, Nomad, Immigrant: Stories From Life Abroad A Guest Post Series Featuring Absolutely Prabulous


Photo credit: Antique globe turned to Mexico by Adolfo Félix on Unsplash





Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

Sunday, 13 May 2018

5 brilliant bedtime books for toddlers and preschoolers

It’s Bedtime… that longed-for (by parents), dreaded (again by parents!), much-avoided (by kids) time of day.  Is there anything more exhausting than trying to get a suddenly hyperactive small child to go to bed?

So we all know that reading a bedtime story is an important part of a bedtime routine.  I may not be the best person to talk about routines here, and I may, on more than one occasion (okay, quite often), have fallen asleep while in the middle of reading a bedtime story (to be rudely awakened by a sharp cry of “Mummy! Wake up!”), but we do enjoy a good bedtime story.  Although why do they have a more soporific effect on me than on her?

5 Brilliant Bedtime Books For Toddlers And Preschoolers


Perhaps any book could be a bedtime book, but the books I've chosen here are specifically about bedtime as well as for bedtime.

If you really want to get your toddler or preschooler in the mood for settling into bed these books are ideal.

All five of these books were given to Emma by her grandparents or aunties and all opinions are our own.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links to Amazon.com which means I make a small commission on purchases made from these links.  Click on the book cover image to go to the Amazon link.

The Magic Castle
by Stella Farris




Of the five books I've chosen here, The Magic Castle is the one with the most excitement, and maybe even slightly scary elements, although the ending is delightfully comforting.

Because it is a pop-up book with some delicate parts, it needs to be handled with slightly more care.  That doesn't mean you can't read it with a toddler, I used to read it with Emma when she was two, but with careful supervision.

5 Brilliant Bedtime Books For Toddlers And Preschoolers


The story is about a boy who dreams one night that he is in a magic castle.  With each turn of the page he enters a new room and in each room up pops a bigger and scarier creature than in the previous room.  The boy tries to be brave and keeps going until he reaches the last room where there is a cute surprise waiting for him.

The Magic Castle is a classic, my sister had this book when she was little and then our youngest sister inherited it.  She was the one who gave this book to Emma, as she had enjoyed it so much.


Goodnight Harry
by Kim Lewis




This is a lovely and sweet story about a cuddly toy elephant, Harry, who can't get to sleep.  He tries everything – reading a story, exercising, tidying up, lying on his back, lying on his tummy – but sleep never comes to Harry.  Eventually he accidentally pulls the covers off his friends, Ted (a teddy bear) and Lulu (a cuddly lamb), waking them up.  They are sympathetic to Harry’s problem and sit with him looking out of the window together.

Harry is soon fast asleep himself.

5 Brilliant Bedtime Books For Toddlers And Preschoolers


The illustrations are gorgeous and make everything look soft and muted.  The cuddly toys especially look like they have a soft furry texture.

Everything about this book is calming and comforting, making it absolutely ideal for bedtime reading for little ones.


Elmer and the Lost Teddy
by David McKee




Elmer the patchwork elephant is well-known and well-loved character for many.  Here he comes to the rescue when baby elephant loses his teddy which he can't get to sleep without.  Elmer generously lends baby elephant his own (patchwork) teddy and sets out to find the lost teddy.  Along the way he comes across all the other baby animals, all sleeping contentedly with their own teddies and we see how essential teddies are to all of the baby animals.

5 Brilliant Bedtime Books For Toddlers And Preschoolers


It's a very cute story with characteristically colourful illustration and a message of generosity and helping others.


Goodnight Tiptoe
by Polly Dunbar




This is one of a series of books, each featuring one of the characters who all live together in a little yellow house.  Apparently, the setting was inspired by the author’s own experiences of sharing a house with friends.  The characters are a little girl called Tilly, Hector, a red cowboy boot- wearing pig, a very lady-like hen called Pru, Tumpty the Elephant, Doodle the dinosaur and finally Tiptoe, a rabbit in a stripy onesie.  The motherly Tilly is helping all her friends get ready for bed, but cheeky Tiptoe just won't settle down, insists he is not sleepy and does everything possible to put off going to bed.  Does this remind you of anyone?!

5 Brilliant Bedtime Books For Toddlers And Preschoolers


I think part of the charm of this story is that each of the characters is so well-defined that they do remind you a bit of people you know.  Tiptoe is funny in his antics to avoid going to sleep and the story and characters are so endearing you can’t help but love them.


Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
Illustrated by Yu-hsuan Huang




This is a beautiful board book with moving parts on each page.  The text is the song Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and inside the cover is a QR code which takes you to an audio recording of the song.  You could listen at the same time as looking at the book, but then you would have to go back and start the book again, taking your time on each page to spot all the little details in the illustrations.

5 Brilliant Bedtime Books For Toddlers And Preschoolers


The real story in this book is told more in the illustrations than in the text.  Observe the scenes on each page and "read" the pictures; tell the story of what you see.  The moving parts also add a special appeal; raising the star in the sky also lifts up the blinds in the windows so you can see into the houses; you can make the star shoot across the sky; you can turn a dial and see all sorts of different nocturnal animals chasing after each other and a parade of objects and animals passing across the night sky.  When she was quite a lot younger, Emma used to spend ages turning the animals rounds on the dial.

5 Brilliant Bedtime Books For Toddlers And Preschoolers


I hope you’ve found something here to add to your bedtime reading collection!  Have you and your little ones read any of these books?  What did you think of them?  Do you have any other recommendations for bedtime stories?  Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you!


More Brilliant Books:

3 brilliant mouse books for toddlers & preschoolers



5 Brilliant Bedtime Books For Toddlers And Preschoolers



Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

Laura's Lovely Blog






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Monday, 7 May 2018

Expat, Nomad, Immigrant: Stories from Life Abroad - A Story of Ice and...Sun by The Elephant Mum

Welcome to my new guest post series which gives expats, nomads and immigrants a space to share their stories of life abroad and offers us a glimpse into their experiences.

The series launched with my own post, the story of how I ended up in Mexico all those years ago.  You can read it here:  Stories from Life Abroad - guest post series launch.  Last month's post was The Wrong Coat by Liberty on the Lighter Side.

Each month there will be a new post by a different contributor.  They may or may not be bloggers, they could be from any country, living anywhere in the world as expats, immigrants or nomads.  The idea is to tell as wide a variety of stories and experiences of living abroad as possible, from many different viewpoints.

This series will keep running for as long as I continue to get contributions for it, so if you would like to take part, email me at mummyandthemexicans@gmail.com and I will be happy to send you the details.



Expat, Nomad, Immigrant: Stories From Life Abroad A Guest Post Series


This month’s guest post is by Paola, an Italian expat living in Finland. She is the mother of two toddlers, through birth and international adoption. She is passionate about learning anything new and about parenting.  She blogs about her multicultural family at The Elephant Mum, but you can also find her on Twitter, Facebook , and Instagram .



A Song of Ice and... Sun.

Leaving Italy to Start a Life in Finland


I have never felt Italian. Italy is a fantastic place - no wonder it is depicted as a dream destination - but it's not a great country. I never truly belonged there and since I was young, I dreamt of living somewhere else and I worked hard to make that possible. Of all places, I would have never guessed I would end up in Finland.


When my university advisor suggested it as destination for a study year abroad, I didn't know anything about the place. I barely could point to it on a map. I was not able to name anything Finnish and believed Nokia was a Japanese brand. It was quite a jump in the dark but I am glad I made it.

In 2010 I left for Finland with the idea to stay only one year, but I fell in love with it immediately. Two months in and I suggested to my boyfriend, left behind with the promise "I'll be back", that he would leave his job so that we could move there. He also secretly dreamt of leaving Italy and we decided to start our life in Finland.

It was the best choice I've ever made. Finland is a great place to start and have a family. All pieces of the welfare puzzles are in place. Coming from an extremely sexist society, as a woman I felt like a person for the very first time. Our first child was born here and we adopted our youngest from India through the Finnish adoption system. They are now four and two years old, the oldest is fully bilingual.

Expat, Nomad, Immigrant: Stories From Life Abroad A Guest Post Series


Cultural integration has been hard and sometimes I feel hopeless. Finland has two official languages: Finnish and Swedish. However, the latter (and easier) is spoken by a minority, so we ended up having to learn the first, which is the most painful thing I ever had to do in my life (and I pushed out a baby). I speak Finnish for most of my daily interactions, but I prefer to speak English in my workplace. I almost gave up the idea that I will ever be a fluent speaker and I don't feel at my best self when I talk in Finnish. Despite the relatively low percentage of immigrants, luckily the work market is quite open to international employment and finding English-speaking companies is becoming easier.


Finnish people have a very well-defined culture and many societal rituals. I was motivated to learn the family-related traditions, as I want my kids to have a typical Finnish childhood. Living here has given me and my family so much in terms of culture. For starters, I discovered the love of nature. No, I'm not jumping from tree to tree in a hippy outfit - it would mean instant freezing here - but I've learned to appreciate harsher weather conditions and the simple pleasures nature can offer. I grew up in a small town, but still had a city life childhood. Here, I literally have wild forest outside my door. When our parents visit us, I can compare how limited their point of view is with respect to the one I developed here. In Italy you can count on good weather most of the time. If a couple of drops fall from the sky, you cancel your plans to go outside playing. Here you do not have this luxury, but I have learned to appreciate and live to fullest under any condition. In practice this means that my kids spend some time outside daily, something we didn't use to do in our childhood. My children pop into the forest and pick berries to eat as an afternoon snack. They catch insects and closely observe wild animals. They walk, run, swim in lakes, and do plenty of physical activity. And there's no air pollution, did I mention that?


Expat, Nomad, Immigrant: Stories From Life Abroad A Guest Post Series


My cultural integration strategy is "they'll learn to love me". I appreciate most of the Finnish customs and definitely this is the place where I feel most at home. However, on some things I truly believe that "Italians do it better" and I'm... educating them. I try to bring some positive aspects of my culture into theirs and my personal experience is that they truly appreciate it. It's a delicate balance and a dance I have learned to practice. It is something I value in my children's education as well. I encourage them to learn the local customs, but teach them to value their cultural heritage and unique perspective. 


If I stop to think what I miss about Italy... food! Finnish people are growing a palate and a taste for international cuisine, but I miss the Italian food culture, which permeates the whole society. I feel lucky my husband is Italian, as we can feel free to live our culture to the fullest at home and it doesn't feel like a minority culture. Traditional Finnish foods are... peculiar. The underlying idea of their cuisine is proving your endurance. Their top-sellers include a dessert which looks (and tastes, I would add) like poo-poo and a salty liquorice that kills your taste buds.

I miss the sun. Winters in Finland can get really dark. We live in the Southern region and still have to endure weeks with five hours or less of sunlight a day. I realized in time that it does affect your mood. No wonder the most popular Finnish cartoon character tries to kill itself in the very first episode (a taste of Finnish optimism exclusively for you, readers). Also, Finnish winter tries to kill me in many ways and especially with ice. A winter day in here is a lesson in humbleness and the caducity of life, I guess.


Expat, Nomad, Immigrant: Stories From Life Abroad A Guest Post Series


Our plan is to grow old here. To be honest, I would like to experience working somewhere else for a short time, but I am afraid my children would lose Finnish language and culture. Maybe I will do short residencies when they are older. Beside that aspect, Finland has grown to be my home and I don't plan to leave it ever again.



Find Paola at The Elephant Mum and on TwitterFacebook  and Instagram .









I hope you enjoyed this post - please share it or leave us a comment below! 


Expat, Nomad, Immigrant: Stories From Life Abroad A Guest Post Series


Next month I have another fantastic guest post by Prabs of Absolutely Prabulous. Subscribe to my blog or the newsletter to make sure you don't miss it!





Photo credit: Antique globe turned to Mexico by Adolfo Félix on Unsplash

Tale of Mummyhood Cup of Toast


Sunday, 29 April 2018

5 Things you should Ignore when raising a Bilingual Child

If you are bringing up your child or children to be bilingual, or are planning to, you are not alone – in fact, you’re not even in a minority.  Over half of the world’s population is bilingual or multilingual, so we can safely say that we are more “normal” than the monolinguals!

However, it is an important and maybe even life-changing decision.  Being bilingual opens up new worlds, more possibilities and a different way of thinking.  It comes with social, cognitive and health benefits, but it isn’t always an easy road to take.  You may have to deal with other people’s preconceptions and prejudices along the way. You may feel like the odd one out or even face your own child’s rejection of your efforts.

5 Things You Should Ignore When Raising A Bilingual Child


These are all obstacles that can be overcome if we are determined enough, and the simplest way is just to ignore them.  This may sound strange – ignoring problems doesn’t make them go away.  Well, in this case it does!  At least, it’s a tactic that works with those negative voices from either inside or outside your own head.  Below I’ve listed five of the main obstacles that I’ve faced so far in the first four years of our bilingual journey.  You may have others that I haven’t even thought of, as everyone’s situation is different in some way.

I should add that in our particular situation the obstacles are minimal.  We live in Mexico where pretty much everyone speaks Spanish (although there are many official languages) and I’m bringing up my daughter in English since that’s my native language.  It’s a no-brainer.  Knowledge of English has become nothing short of essential for countless careers and even just to be able to graduate from many universities you have to have reached a certain level of English.  So the usefulness of being bilingual is indisputable and I have been generally supported in and congratulated on raising my daughter to be bilingual.  Not everyone may agree with my methods and some people might have different opinions on how, when, where, how often, etc.  but I’m confident that at least in this aspect of parenting I’m getting it right!

The main obstacles I’ve encountered in our bilingual journey so far:



1. Feelings of self-doubt


Don’t doubt – you are doing the right thing!  There are huge benefits to being bilingual, aside from the obvious one of knowing another language.  According to various studies, in bilingual people the part of the brain in charge of executive control is more developed, which means improved concentration and multitasking skills, greater ability to focus and solve problems and more mental flexibility.

This greater development of different parts of the brain helps to delay the onset of dementia in old age.  It can also result in better chances of recovery for stroke patients.

You are giving your child an advantage in life, you can be sure of that.

5 Things You Should Ignore When Raising A Bilingual Child

2. Self-consciousness


There’s not much you can do about this except stop caring what others might or might not be thinking about you. (Remember this quote: “What other people think of me is none of my business.”)

You may find yourself sometimes feeling ridiculous or a bit odd when you’re out in public or with other people as you’re the only one speaking a different language to everybody else.  You may imagine sometimes that people are giving you strange looks, judging you or think you are weird.

a) Don’t crumble under imaginary pressure, ignore and overcome your self-consciousness.  Be proud of being different.

b) You have no idea what people are really thinking; they may actually be admiring you.

5 Things You Should Ignore When Raising A Bilingual Child

3. People asking you why you’re not speaking their language/ the language you’re “supposed” to be speaking

             
Has anyone else ever had these type of comments or is it just me?  Depending on how they’re asking and who they are, either explain patiently why you’re speaking a different language to your child, or just ignore them.


4. Opinions such as “your child will get get confused” or “bilingual children start speaking later than other children”


They won’t get confused.  You might get confused, other people might get confused, but the children know what they are saying.

Speech delay in bilingual children is a common assumption and to be honest, I don’t know if there is any truth in it or not.  All kids develop at their own pace, so even if they do take longer to start speaking, they’ll soon catch up – and in two languages!

5 Things You Should Ignore When Raising A Bilingual Child


5. Your own child answering you in the other language, not the one you’re speaking to them, or being reluctant to speak your language

                                               
Obviously don’t ignore them, but don’t let it discourage you.  Just continue talking to them in your language as you usually do, without pressuring them too much to speak a particular language.  It’ll come naturally.

Lately my now four-year-old, who used to talk to me mostly in English, has been addressing me more and more in Spanish. I think this is probably a natural consequence of me being at work most of the day and of her starting preschool and being surrounded by her Spanish-speaking classmates.  Often she drops in an English word or phrase into a Spanish sentence – something she didn’t used to do so much, now more frequently.  Anyway,  I keep on speaking in English to her and it's so completely normal to both of us, no matter which language she is using.  I would feel odd speaking to her in Spanish despite the fact that it is the lingua franca in our household.

5 Things You Should Ignore When Raising A Bilingual Child


It’s become a habit that has stuck.  It’s like a switch that goes on automatically when I’m speaking to Emma and I don’t care if the other people around us are talking Spanish, whether I have to translate what we’re talking about (or sometimes Emma will translate), whether they understand or not, whether it bothers them or not.  That may sound inconsiderate, but it’s just the way it is.  It’s my bilingual survival technique, while Emma is still little and her acquisition of English still comes mostly from me.

I'm sure as she gets older we will come across different challenges and obstacles in our bilingual journey but I feel confident that I'm setting a solid foundation and giving my daughter a set of skills that will help her in the future.

What are your thoughts on this?  If you are also bringing up bilingual children, have you come across any of these obstacles, or different ones?  I'd love to hear from you!


5 Things You Should Ignore When Raising A Bilingual Child


I started writing somewhat irregular updates on Emma's language progress when she was a toddler which, for me at least, are fascinating to look back on.  You can read about what Emma was saying at almost two in Bilingual Toddler Update at nearly 23 months  .

If you're curious about how I ended up living in Mexico, you can read my story in the launch post of my Stories from Life Abroad guest series.

If you want to read more about the benefits of being bilingual,  this article from BBC Future is interesting reading and was also the source of some of the information I included here.


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