If you are an Adult Third Culture Kid raising Third Culture Kids, please read this post. You are probably familiar with the definition of a TCK, but here it is, just for those who are not sure if they are (or not) an ATCK:
A Third Culture Kid (TCK) is a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents’ culture. The TCK frequently builds relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership in any. Although elements from each culture may be assimilated into the TCK’s life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar background.
As an ATCK, we know exactly what our children are going through while growing up in a country that is not their (and our!) passport country. We have doubts about what language to teach them, as we are multilinguals, and we don’t know what kind of traditions we should teach them, show them and which aspects of our very colorful life we should pass them on.
As ATCK’s and former TCK’s (or expats-since-birth) we don’t feel the urge to have to explain where “home” is, we never questioned this. I’ve read so many articles from not-real-ATCK’s pretending that TCK’s ask themselves where they come from: this is simply not true!
I noticed that many topics about multilingualism, raising multilingual children etc. are often written by First Culture Adults or parents who never experienced a whole life as “expat” and I realize that the way to approach these topics is quite different from what I expect.
Therefore I would like to make this small attempt to ask other ATCK’s to let me know how they raise their TCK’s and what kind of experience they’ve made.
With your help, I will soon start this series on my blog because as an Expat-since-birth and ATCK myself, and raising TCK’s I’m wondering what makes the difference of being ATCK parents, raising TCK’s.
- Being a Third Culture Kid: Big Fat Mindfuck or Blessing? (opineseason.com)
- Expat parenting book read-along (bxlsprout.com)
- Planning for Third Culture Kids (TCK’s) (asiasurvey2013.wordpress.com)
- My multilingual journey (expatsincebirth.com)
Categories: Being expat, Being multilingual, Expat Life, Raising TCK's, TCK's
This post really made me think because as an expatriate in the U.S. I raised – by myself actually after I divorced their American father – I raised three kids in the U.S. while remaining an Italian and feeling free to disagree with the “norms” and behave differently. My kids related to the local culture but the local culture remained outside my own inner being, even though I got along well and “swam with the current” so to speak. There are things that i have discussed with my oldest daughter that we lived but did not share. Born in 1961 she remembers that in school they drilled for atomic attacks, “the bomb”, she remembers being terrified, while I never paid attention to that nor made provisions just-in-case. My son cannot believe me when I say that I am not American, he insists that I am, yet he knows that I am somewhat “eccentric” in my behaviour current and past… I never tried to “mold” them one way or another, but I always myself behaved according to my own way of thinking and living. Sometimes I “bucked the trends” of the American way of life but never forced them into that either. Some of my freedom of being whoever I was has remained with them – especially after their getting to know Italy and Europe.
You make me realize that I never posed that question to myself if i was raising my children into belonging or not into which culture… and European friends of mine with children at the time (the 70s) did not either. It is an interesting thought but I can only judge after the fact. My children are grownups now, quite successful and well adjusted. I wonder if this idea is part of the evolution of parenting over time.
I completely agree with you that anybody not immersed in the experience of being an expat, cannot possibly tell how to live that life or raise those kids… Overall I believe that children are a lot more adaptable and smart than we sometimes give them credit for! Sorry for the length of this comment, but – as I said – you really made me think. Thank you.
This is very interesting Vera! I observed that First Culture Parents approach the topic about raising children in another culture than they own like a “problematic task”, they don’t consider it naturally exciting and positive. There is so much talking about learning or not the local language (my parents never questioned this, it was obvious we would !), about how and what to do to “fit in” (my parents never worried about this, it happened naturally!) and all those discussions about how to learn the minority language, this fear that TCK’s are not proficient enough in the mother tongue of their parents. – I’m just wondering if it’s just me or if other ATCK’s are much more relaxed about all this. And, as you say, I think there is the difference to parents nowadays. With all the research they seem overwhelmed with informations and recommendations, and sometimes really struggle. It was different when I grew up: my mother didn’t have any help from teachers, experts etc. and she managed so well! – I also agree that our children, all children!, are much more adaptable and smart than many parents think! Grazie a te, Vera, mi hai confermato quel che supponevo.
Parlo semplicemente della mia esperienza in materia… son io a ringraziare te per avermi dato modo di discutere questo soggetto. Io avevo come guida solo il Dr. Spock col suo famoso libro… un mondo semplice era!
A me rincresce molto che i mie figli non abbiano imparato l’italiano crescendo, ma il padre loro era geloso se usavo l’italiano, e inoltre quando son venuta qui gia’ parlavo bene l’inglese… E purtroppo nessuno dei tre ha ereditato la mia facilita’ con le lingue !
Vera, quest’aspetto delle lingue è difficile e dipende tanto dalla situazione familiare e sociale. Forse i tuoi nipoti chiederanno di imparare l’italiano? Chissà. A me rincresce di non aver potuto continuare a parlare l’italiano con i miei figli come avevo iniziato a fare, ma ultimamente ho constatato che provano a formar frasi per conto loro e la speranza è l’ultima a morire 😉
I’ve begun thinking a lot about this. It’s an extra level isn’t it? I was a TCK (American raised in Pakistan) My husband was a military kid who lived 4 formative years of his life overseas and is now in is 35th house. We raised our kids in Pakistan, Egypt, now America. This may sound ridiculous but I was thinking about adult children of alcoholics, how they take on characteristics unique to growing up in that situation, Kids of TCK’s take on unique characteristics as well I think. My kids aren’t sure what they are….Lots of thoughts running through my brain here but I look forward to seeing what you do with this!
Thank you, Marilyn, for your reply! Yes, I would like to bring this topic to the next level. How do ex-TCK’s or ATCK’s raising their children, who often are TCK’s as well? What are the characteristics that kids of TCK’s take on? I guess TCK’s are never sure “what” they are, as the simple question about “where do you come from?” can’t be answered. I thought to set up a questionnaire for ATCK’s raising TCK’s in order to find some answers to all the questions I have. – For you I already have one: when did you get back to America? Did you already have children and how did you feel moving to your passport country (or did you maybe live there before “coming back”)? I think it makes a difference if as a ATCK you did ever live in your passport country. For some the feeling of alienation increases when they experience this, others don’t have any problem with it. – As I said, I have so many questions about this topic.
Oh wow…this is loaded. When I left Pakistan it was the peculiar grief of a young third culture kid. I was young and so had hopes to go back – and though my entry into the U.S was anything but smooth, I still knew I would not live in my passport country – for sure I’d live overseas….and I did raising my TCK’s for 10 years. 5 kids born on 3 continents. And then…we moved for real. It took 7 years. At least. I never pictured myself sending my children to a public school. I never pictured going grocery shopping every week in America. I never pictured doing week vacations in Florida during spring break. I never pictured any of it. My whole world had to be re-constructed. And i did it poorly. Plus I was so incredibly lonely. While on the surface we were the fun, happy family, full of life….my insides told me I (we) were misfits. I had an epiphany one day while driving …I realized I hated, despised, the place my kids called ‘home’. Besides this I had the two oldest going through their own TCK stuff but I couldn’t deal because of mine….so this is long. And I’m actually leaving on a plane for Istanbul in a few hours but I’d love to continue this conversation. As I said – I’ve wanted to look at this for a long time! I wrote a post called Saudade – A word for the third culture kid that really described how I felt during those years – still feel at times! Thanks so much for responding!
Oh yes, Saudade! I know this feeling… I read your excellent post about it. I would really wish to know more about your story. I’ll read your posts first and then I might contact you again about some more questions, ok? I wish you a good trip to Istanbul. Please write me when you’re back, ok?
Thank you for this post. It is something I have been pondering awhile myself — ATCK’s raising TCK’s. There are many benefits, I’m sure, as we understand what they are experiencing since we have lived it ourselves. But maybe there are also some drawbacks as we are carrying our own emotional baggage from having grown up abroad? I had a very happy childhood that I wouldn’t trade for the world, but I know that is not always the case. I look forward to reading more of what you write about this. A little more about me — I was born and grew up in Kenya, went to college in the U.S. (my passport country is the United States), then my husband and I spent 4 years in Japan and 2 years in Portugal, and now we are in Ecuador. We have 3 sons, each born on a different continent! Here are my own initial thoughts on being an ATCK raising TCK’s: http://lauradcampbell.wordpress.com/2013/03/30/unrooted-childhoods-a-chapter-by-chapter-review/
Hi Laura! Welcome to my blog! I just discovered yours too 😉
Yes, what you say about us carrying our own emotional baggage from having grown abroad is very true. I’m also lucky to have had a happy childhood, but I’m aware of the moments when children need to feel to belong to a group etc. and I hope that I will be able to help my children. I’ll read your post and leave a reply on your blog. I’ll publish some more posts about this topic. – I’m very glad that you found me.
I am a TCK now with family of four. I am getting restless to travel between my two cultures and bringing kids and along nine months in what will be their host country and my native country and coming back to USA every summer for what is my host country and their native country. My kids are between age 14 yrs and 6 mos. actually the 14 yrs old is encouraging me I guess he wants to share my experience ? I know for sure they will turn into next generation of TCKs probably coming to this forum for their issues like us.
Morally is it right or wrong, should I follow my dream of dabbling in both cultures knowing my kids will be next generation TCK or should I silence my feelings for their stable monoculture. I am strong enough to do both but dont know which path to take.
To sum up my question we all know being a TCK is both a blessing and a curse. So should we be passing this on to the next generation knowing well in advance about the curse portion because our parents either did not know or only thought about the positives and not the negatives. Because I am a physician and first rule we are taught is ” first do no harm”
This TCK stuff does harm our children despite the hidden benefits.
Thank you so much Sammy, for your very important input and for sharing your experience with raising TCK’s, being ATCK yourself. We are aware of all the advantages and disadvantages of being TCK’s (or expats, or global nomads etc.) and often wonder if we should share our experience with our children or let them do their own experience with it. As you say, being a TCK is a blessing and a curse. I think it depends on our children’s character whether to tell them the negative side effects of it or not. Personally I, wouldn’t with very young children and not if I don’t feel the urge to do so. I always prefer focussing on the positive aspects of it, but when my children struggle with something related to their being TCK’s, I help them to find a way to deal with it. – I hope I got it right: You are moving to your home country and their home country is USA, so they will get to know how it is to live in your country. You ask if you should silence your feelings for their stable monoculture. Why whould you do that? You have the great opportunity to (re-)discover your country with them and to help them to settle in. It will surely be an exciting experience for you and for them. Therefore I wouldn’t suggest to silence your feelings, but to share them with your children. – What exactly made you say that the “TCK stuff does harm our children”?
Neat to find you guys. I guess I’m an ATCK and have 5 kids who are TCKs — although we have always just lived our lives and never really needed to have a name for ourselves. It’s similar to attachment parenting. We were practicing our own style of parenting that often was different from the norm but it had no name until moving to Hawaii and finding a great group of unschooling/Attachment parenting families. Suddenly we had a “group” and a name to what we were doing. We FIT in somewhere. But we still were different as we were expats and travelers. In my 20s and 30s I enjoyed having this name and this fit. Now in my 40s I don’t feel the need to have a name for my lifestyle (although it’s neat to meet up with similar people).
I actually decided to do some more research on the topic because — well, I am a researcher and university professor and that is what I do:) On a few of the sites though I have seen quite a negative tone to posts with people stressing about raising their children in the same TCK way and creating all the problems for them that the parents experienced. How sad to be in that situation or feel that way. I think we need to remember that whether you are happily living in one town all of your life or 50 towns around the world, problems with growing up occur. Life is not easy all the time whatever continent or path you choose. Why keep blaming things on TCK life. I suggest digging a bit deeper and pondering the attachment between parent and child. If that is strong and the relationship is communicative and healthy then children will grow up just fine — no matter where you are.
Just my thoughts as a developmental psychologist ATCK and AP/unschooling parent of 5 TCKS (how’s that for throwing in lots of identifiers that I claimed not to need:)
Thank you Kate, for stopping by and for your very important comment! I also didn’t know that I was a sort of ATCK (former TCK)-expat before I was labelled as one when we moved to the Netherlands. I just knew that for locals I was the one who was “different” and this never did bother me. I totally agree with you that we don’t need to have a name for ourselves, but I guess other people need to “put us in a box” and the (A)TCK /expat / global nomad / cross-cultural-kid box suits pretty well (to them). You mention the “fitting in” aspect: I think even in these boxes, we don’t always “fit in” as everyone is different. In the way they live their lives, in the way they experience it. And this makes us all equal again, as we’re not that different from “First Culture Kids” (you see, they have a name too…). We have to the same problems to solve. Some more, from time to time, but we’re good at it. At least, if we’re used to do so. I see a huge difference between First-Culture-“People” (as I refer to adults) and (A)TCK’s etc. who live abroad. If you know how “it” works, you don’t complain so much anymore. It’s like learning a new game every time you relocate: what do I have to do to find a place to live, where do I have to go to get all my documents, where are the schools, where are the shops, how do the locals organize their daily life etc. But if someone moves in it’s own passport-country, this wouldn’t be much different, right?
I see that you had the same reaction I had. I’m researcher too (and I used to work at the University too) and I guess this is just our way to approach things: do research on a topic that intrigues us. It’s exactly this negative tone of posts, studies etc. about this topic that made me write this post. I hear this every day, that mums complain about the situations they’re living in. They blame their expat etc. lives for their problems, but I don’t think that in their home country they would be really happier and complain less, in my opinion, it’s their “forma mentis”… If you embrace your life with your children (or without), if you try to focus on the positive aspects of it, wherever you live, you can enjoy your life and really make the best out of it. I’ve seen many families live for more than 20/30 years isolated in their host country, not taling the local language or even getting in touch with them. But this is a topic for another post…
What I observed is, that people tend to consider the TCK’s as not being the norm. But what is the norm nowadays? I don’t think there is one. I love and appreciate the variety (in italian you say: “il mondo è bello perché è vario”) I even would say that I need it to feel comfortable. – A lot did change since Ruth Hill Useem and John Useem did their first studies on the subject. Many others followed and I’m excited to learn more about this. – I really would like to hear / read more about your thoughts about this, the positive ones 😉 May I ask how old your children are and what they are doing?
I also am an ATCK (just realized this recently) raising a TCK in the NL. Interesting to see posts on this topic and am looking forward to more!
My kid is not two yet but I do now start to worry about all the mixed values, traditions and languages he’ll grow up surrounded with and how to act myself. It’s like you say, i’m not at all worried of him integrating into society here (I know that will happen in a flash) but i do worry about him loosing part of his cultural heritage and wonder how I should handle it all. Also, though we do enjoy living here, I feel abmivalent about him growing up to be Dutch. If we stay here there’s no way to avoid this.
i have myself to compare things to; I had no real issues growing up as an English speaking family in Germany but later I struggled with having no real French side (never even learned French at home though my mom is French, people could never understand this) and having no relation at all to my passport country USA. I ended up chasing these identities as a young adult and am now at peace. I observed my sister doing the same.
It worries me enough that allthough there are so many international schools here we’re seriously thinking to going ‘back to my homeland’, land of my son’s passport, though I myself was not born there and have not lived there since being a teeneager. Might it just make things easier?!?
Thank you very much for your reply. It’s quite funny that we usually don’t really question “what” we are, or try to define it until we run into some definitions or are asked about it. – I’m not sure if I got your family situation: you’re English (USA)-French (your mum is French but never learned French at home). And your husband? Are you going to stay in the NL for a longer period? Or are you already planning to go to the USA? – I understand your worries about bringing up your child here, but I must say that he has a great advantage: You know already what he will have to face during the next years and you would be the perfect guide. It’s quite a work to bring up a child as a TCK and it’s not going to be easy for sure. But I don’t know if it would really be easier if you would raise him in his passport country. You are a TCK and he would become a FCK. There would be several things you probably won’t be able to share with him. Anyway, I think every TCK goes through phases where he/she struggles about the identity. You’re surely a great mixture of all the places you’ve lived and the cultures, traditions you’ll give on to your child are already a mix, right? At least it is what I experienced with my children. When I first thought about what kind of traditions I wanted to celebrate with my son, we lived in Italy and I focussed on the German and Swiss ones (as the Italians were very dominant in the social context we lived in). When we moved to NL, I started to include Italian traditions too. And obviously some Dutch ones joined. The same applies to the languages (I wrote about this in another post). What I want to say, would you really feel comfortable to go back to your homeland, where you haven’t lived since being a Teenager? Why should this make things easier? – I think that making a good plan would help. A linguistic plan (which language to talk to your child, which school to send him – yes, I know, he’s little for that, but it helps to picture yourself too in a few years), social plan (is there a social net which supports the languages I want my child to speak? and build one), where do you think you or your son will live one day? Here, in the NL, in USA, Germany? Which languages does he need to be able to speak (acquire literacy) in order to be able to speak with family, friends? – Sorry, this is very long, but very important too. Please give me more informations about your situation and I’ll try to give you more feedback.
Oh thank you very much for your personal response!! Sorry it took me so long to reply, I only saw your post today.
So many good suggestions and questions! So fun to discover my bub is actually a FCK, totally makes sense of course.
I do need a good plan I realize. I guess I find thinking about it all exhausting because I can’t say where we might end up living in the long run and where I would actually want to end up living.
Well, here goes trying to clarify my background. I was born in the US, my father is German and my mother French. I have dual citizenship German – USA. My parents spoke English at home, to each other and to me as well. They were fully integrated immigrants. I only spent my toddler years in the US however, we then moved to Germany. I spent all my childhood and teenager years in Germany, going to the local schools. Eventually German became my main language. Summers were spent in France with my French family (who mostly spoke English with me). So I consider both English and German my mother tongues, though I speak English with a slight German accent! My partner is South African, he speaks English with our son and with me. I speak German with my son, though I find it an effort. My natural urge is to speak English with him (as I was spoken to as a young kid) but since it would be such a waste of a language I try and stick to German. Neither me or my partner have family here in NL or many friends (yet?!).
We’re lucky that there is a German school here in town but classes are very small so there would not be able to make many friends there. In any case, I myself was many years in a class of 6 pupils and it wasn’t fun (put mildly). Would going there not also isolate him from the surrounding Dutch social environment? There are also international schools here to but they’re pricey…
We have no idea where we’ll end up, we could very well just end up staying here in NL.
You are right, I never saw myself going back to Germany but it might perhaps be ‘easier’ because then German would not be the minority culture any more. I could then gladly switch to speaking English at home. My partner is dreaming about moving to Munich – or moving back to South Africa, a no no in my books for various reasons. For sure we wont be moving to the US.
I guess I’m stressing about loosing the German part of my sons future identity since I’m his only reference at the moment.
Sorry for the lengthy explanation and thanks for listening
I am an ATCK, of Dutch parents, grew up in Belgium and the US. Did part of my studies in the Netherlands. Married a US American and raised two kids in Congo-Brazzaville, India, Madagascar, and Thailand. They now study in the Netherlands. We live in Malawi and are about to move to Tanzania. We decided to educate the children through the international French schools in the countries we were in. Mostly because the French system is the same in all countries so they could pretty much move while continuing on in the same books that they had been reading in previous schools. As a result, of their schooling they appear to feel more generally European than anything else. As a result of my upbringing we decided that their identify was more likely to be tied to family than country and we made sure that they could spend as much time time with their extended relatives as possible. In India that was especially easy as my sister is married to an Indian and we spent 6 years there. Our children (22 and 25) continue to keep up with the family on their own, including visits to cousins,etc. in India and the US. Aside from that we raised them with the three principal languages of Dutch, English and French. My husband also learned Dutch. The children attended summer camps in the Netherlands so that they could spend some time with Dutch kids as their cousins do not live there either. Finally, when they went to the Netherlands to study I gave them some books on Dutch culture for foreigners and we discussed the potential issues they might encounter.
Hi, Mei. Your story and the one of your children is very interesting! Thank you for sharing it here. You are all real (A)TCK’s and I guess your children feel as TCK’s too – if they know the term. I’ll set up a questionnaire this summer that I’ll publish here on my blog. Would you be interested to take part of a survey?
Sure. Actually I did my master’s degree all those years ago on international relocation and adjustment. Compared people moving from Europe and India to Washington, DC. I was even a member or SIETAR. My kids and I are also members of the TCKid social networking site.
Dear Ute, I am very sure this will be a wonderful series and I am looking forward to more! I love reading all these wonderful and personal comments. I knew I was a TCK before I started reading all these blogs about it and I never had identity problems! I feel very Polish here, very European in Poland. I would have no problem speaking German to my children if we were living in Poland, and I would be more “German” then. On top of htat, my parents are TCKs themselves, growing up with more than one languages (and these were different languages as well, as my mom speaks Polish and English and my father speaks French and Polish))However, I never thought that living between cultures would be a problem! Maybe that’s because, just like you say, all these articles were written by FCKs, maybe it’s like monolingual parents who worry that speaking 2 or more languages would confuse their children? Maybe we ATCK are proud to be raising our child with more than one cultures and find it easy when others struggle? I really enjoy your blog, Ute! You are a very wise woman and always give me so much hope!
Dear Olga, this is exactly the point: articles about TCK’s are mainly written by FCK’s and most of the articles about multilingual children pointing out the problems about this are written by monolinguals. I started this topic about TCK’s exactly because of this parallel and have an article about that in the pipeline. Personally I discovered to be a TCK only a year ago (!) but I find the literature about it so fascinating that I can’t stop but thinking that there needs even more to be said about it. Especially if you consider the different approaches and definitions. And then there are the global nomads, the cross cultural kids (and adults), the expats and not to forget the “immigrants”. I’m really glad that you like this topic and I would like to talk more about it. – About the identity problems: I observed that the first time I did question mine was when I was asked to do so. I never did before. The same occured with the question “where is your home?” or “where do you feel more at home, here or there?”. And again: these questions didn’t come from expats, TCK’s etc. but from FCK. I was also asked the same kind of questions by monolinguals who asked if I would rather prefer to talk language A or B (or C…). I never did even consider “my” languages in any particular order… but this is, again, the topic of another post 😉
Yes! Totally! I didn’t know I was supposed to question my identity, I always knew that you could have more than just one identity (and even monolinguals and FCK’s do have several identities). I am also reading about TCK’s a lot and I find this exciting (I also worked in research for a while!). However, I think that it’s good that FCKs write about this because for me it’s a different perspective worthy of being explored, and it makes me think. As a bilingual child of a fellow blogger said: “It’s weird that you blog about us speaking all these languages. It’s like blogging about us having 10 fingers!”
Hello Ute! Thanks for the site and the post! I am also a ATCK and raising kids is a subject that I have been thinking a lot about lately and have very few people around me to share with. There is so much I would love to talk/write about Im not quite sure where to start! I wonder a lot about what language to teach my daughters and how to go about that (I speak 4 languages and my husband 2 but he is not a TCK), – I wonder what cultural traditions to pass on to them because I am not really attached to any but do value having learned them,- whether to make the effort to stay put and not have my daughters move from schools and friends every 2-3 years like I did especially since the school system where I live now (Peru) is not great and its expensive, -and I wonder if we should make the effort to move closer to my family and friends also with kids or to stay since my and my husband´s careers are going well…..my experience has taught me to manage the pro´s and con´s of being an ATCK and that home is (any)where you make it, among other lessons learned but raising kids as an ATCK is new! as is parenting!…. I know I cant control the life experiences my daughters will have, but I tend to think that kids need stability….My parents are not TCK´s so they did not fully understand what it was like growing up moving about, so I think I have that advantage….my husband is not a TCK so we dont approach this issue from the same place, but he would love to keep moving and that our daughters have the TCK experience as me…..briefly, I am half Dutch- half Peruvian, born in the US, and grew up in LatinAmerica, US, Holland, UK, Papua New Guinea and Australia. I am married to an Argentinean (whose family is all in one place!) and we have 2 daughters, one born in Argentina the other in Peru. I talk English to my daughters and my husband Spanish and Im wondering if I should introduce Dutch, My daughters are still young (4 and 1) so I think it is a good moment to think about all this…… my apologies if this is a long post, and thank you for reading!! …and would love to continue this exchange, Thanks again!!
Yes, by all means introduce and use all languages. Ours grew up tri-lingually. English, Dutch, French. They are now young adults. They learned Spanish in secondary school and smatterings of local languages in different schools. (I grew up with Dutch and French first as a Dutch expat kid in Belgium, then added English age 10 when we moved to the US). We decided not to worry about the languages after we met our son’s pre-school teacher in India. Her kids were about the same age as ours and spoke 4 reasonably well. Swiss German with Mom, English with Dad, Hindi with grandparents who lived in the house, French at school. It has all worked out well for them and us. We were worried about our daughter as she is dyslexic but that turned out quite well also though it was a challenge at times as French is not an easy language to write for a dyslexic. Raising a dyslexic child internationally (Congo, India, Madagascar, Thailand) was especially challenging at times but that was more due to organising to get her the help she needed.
As far as Dutch is concerned, my husband is American but speaks Dutch which made it easier. We did not worry about French as that was their international “school language” in all the countries. For Dutch and English we tried to maximise exposure, TV, reading stories, vacations with grandparents and other relatives, summer camp in the Netherlands etc. Do not expect them to speak perfectly in every language but whatever they can manage is always good.
If you speak one language and they persist in answering in another, let them do so but try to keep speaking in your language instead. If you force it they will resist. What also works is setting aside a special time to speak a particular language. My parents had us speak French at the dinner table to help us keep practicing. My nephew and niece who grew up with only English and HIndi regret not learning Dutch. Good luck!
Thank you so much for your comment, Mei! I totally agree with all you say – were we separated at birth? 😉
I would love to get to know more about your daughter with dyslexia, how she did cope with all the languages – and different school systems, I guess?
I am very interested in studies about children with dyslexia (I know, there are different sorts of dyslexia) or who need speech therapy who grow up multilingual. – I recently did introduce French at dinner table with my kids and they love it! It’s only twice a week, but I so love to hear them attempt the nasal sounds and repeat everything I say (and I’m very happy that all my French books will have more readers!). – Ik ben erg blij dat ik je heb gevonden (of dat je mij hebt gevonden)! Tot straks, ou à la prochaine. xxx Ute
Yes, like Mei said, talk all the languages to them. You can start now, today with Dutch. Maybe not by saying “well, kids, I’ll talk Dutch to you from now on”, it should be in a less abrupt way 😉 Maybe by reading them a story in Dutch or singing some Dutch songs to them – in this period of the year, children are looking forward already to Sinterklass! Especially if you feel it’s good and right for you to introduce Dutch, do it. And if you don’t know how to handle talking two languages with your children, you could introduce “Dutch moments”. Like Dutch-reading-hour, or Dutch-dinner (once or twice a week) where you all only talk Dutch (be aware that at the beginning you will be the one doing the talking), but slowly they will join if they feel that it’s fun and that it has a purpose. Maybe one of your daughters will not like it as much as the other: that is fine. Everyone is different and has different ways to think about languages etc. But in the long run, they will be thankful for this.
I completely understand your worries about moving too much with kids, being a TCK (or ATCK) yourself, you know all the pros and cons of this nomadic lifestyle. But this is a big advantage! You would surely recognize the phases your children go through when moving. There are so many books about how to make moves easier for our kids – and your own experience will help you to figure out what is best for your daughters. Maybe you can find a compromise and move every 5 (or more) years and not every 2-3. I have a few friends who managed to do this and are quite satisfied with it. Especially because international movings require about 6 months of preparation and 6 months of adjustment, which makes 1 -2 years of “normal life” and that is pretty short for making friends etc.. – Please keep on writing what you’re thinking about this and how you will decide about the Dutch and your lifestyle. – Tot de volgende keer! (ik kijk ernaar uit om van je te horen ;-)) Liefe Groetjes uit Den Haag.
Bedankt Ute en Mei! Making it fun to learn Dutch or have Dutch moments is indeed a good suggestion! or with Sinterklaas liedjes! My parents didnt go about teaching Dutch in a good manner so it is good to (obviously!) consider making it fun and a positive experience in my own family! ….I did want to share though, why this was something I was wondering about….As I am fluent in 3 languages, I find that truly mastering one language as a “real” native can be challenging, I have either some mistakes, a smaller vocab, or stumble slightly when talking in public from being lazy to translate from switching languages often, (its no big drama, maybe Im just a perfectionist or try to hard to sound native, ha!) and so I wondered if it was maybe better that my daughters learn one language well, and then learn the other as a 2nd language. My brother and his wife (Dutch SouthAfrican) have done this with their girls, but then again they both speak Dutch, live in Rotterdam and dont move around like me. Personally I think kids can manage many languages, I think its helpful to have one language per person or context, and also be consistent. So one language per parent or in school one language and at home another etc. Of course, every person, every sibling responds differently to being a TCK or learning languages, I have one brother who hardly speaks Spanish and the other hardly speaks Dutch.
As for moving about….it is a good suggestiont to try to move less often than 2-3 years in as far I am able to decide that with my work, and thanks for pointing out that there is literature out there to help kids with moving….recently, I am wondering whether, when and how to move back to Europe or the US, and then stay put for a while, or if Im “doomed” to stay in Lima. How would it be moving back to a place I choose to leave? but now as a mother of 2! Spannend en beetje eng! 😉 Thanks again for this great space to write and share! Super bueno, gracias!
You’re right: every child reacts differently to the languages spoken at home, at school, with friends. I have three childern and all react in a different way. It is challenging and sometimes we have to find compromises, but well, that’s life. I only try to make it as easy as possible and that nobody has the feeling that speaking one language is a “must” in certain situations (well, except when we have guests: then the language that our guest understands is prioritary). Kids can manage many languages. Some like it more, some less. Some have preferences (I wrote a post about this). Acquiring two or more languages simultaneously is usually not a problem, if you have strict rules when to use/talk them. Like the OPOL method (One person one language: i.e. each parent another one, or each person who interacts with the child speaks one language to the child). We didn’t have much luck with the OPOL system because I talk many languages every day and my children realized that they can pick the one they like the most to talk to me… Since we decided that German was our family language (for many reasons; I wrote about this too) and that the other ones are used in specific situations, I can only recommend to start talking other languages at home as soon as possible. And about the language mixing or code-switching, it is only a sign that you have a great degree of proficiency in the language and you can easily switch from one to the other.
I hope that with your work you’ll find a moving-rythm that suits you and your family the best. I did choose not to move often with my kids because I know how important it is for children to have at least one “stable” thing in their lives. They go to a school where children leave and come very often, so that’s not a very stable situation. At least we are with the nucleus of our family 😉 Please keep on writing, I love to hear about your thoughts and experiences! Groetjes uit Den Haag en hopelijk tot gauw! xxx