The Budapest-based mommy blogging community is burgeoning and Adri is one of the moms leading the way. She has her own fantastic blog full of great Budapest tips and more. She’s a busy woman, but has spent some of her time to doing this guest post for us:
My kids, aged 5 and 8, are beautifully bilingual. When they were born, I was worried that they would never learn English, even though I’m American, since my husband is Hungarian and we live here. I read books and articles about raising bilingual kids and didn’t find the perfect advice. But now I can relax, because they really do speak both languages beautifully. Here are some of our experiences…
- We didn’t stick to the “one-parent, one language” rule. I speak Hungarian, and felt strange speaking English to the kids at a purely Hungarian playground where the other kids and moms wouldn’t understand. So I spoke Hungarian to them then, and English when it was convenient. It didn’t matter. Nowadays, the kids pick bedtime stories regardless of language, and it often happens, for example, that I hear my Hungarian husband reading to my daughter in English while I’m reading a Hungarian story to my son.
- It took them until about age 3 to figure out which was which. Until that point, they were just talking. They didn’t care what language they were speaking, and they didn’t have the self-awareness to realize or understand why the person they were speaking to didn’t understand. One summer, we’d been in the States for two weeks when my son, who had been speaking Hungarian up until that point, took me aside and whispered, in English, “Mom, everybody here speaks ENGLISH!” I tried not to burst out laughing and just said matter-of-factly, “Yep, and so do you!” He took it in stride and spoke English for the rest of the trip.
- They attend(ed) Hungarian private preschools where there is some English taught. I chose the kindergarten (www.tigriskolyokovoda.hu) based largely on how friendly it is, and the location. I also figured they needed a solid base in Hungarian prior to starting school, and I didn’t want to pay the prices that the international kindergartens charge. We’re thrilled with our choice, although my son sometimes insists that what he learns in English at kindergarten is right. So we ended up with two Christmas carols with the same melody, one called “Jingle Bells,” which we sing with Mom, and one called “Jee-goo Beows,” which we sing at kindergarten. Oh well!
- My daughter is now in second grade at a Hungarian public school that has a bilingual program called Vineyard (www.szoloto.hu, they also have two kindergarten-level programs). It’s based on the idea that being bilingual is a lifestyle, not a method of schooling. That certainly fits with our family’s way of life! Each subject, except for reading, of course, is taught in both languages simultaneously. That is, two native-speaking teachers, one English (Australian) and one Hungarian, are present for every class, and they take turns presenting the material and quizzing the kids, switching every 10 minutes. It’s really amazing to see the kids take it all in stride.
That, in fact, is my main message – kids take it all in stride. So don’t stress about ensuring your kids learn both languages. It’s possible, because kids just soak it up. Now both my kids want to learn Spanish. Why? I don’t know, because we’ve never been to Spain, and I don’t speak Spanish! Anyway, we downloaded a language game on my phone and listen to it in the car. Hurray for multilingualism, and holá, Budapest Moms!
Adri Bruckner is an American who’s been living in Budapest for 12 years and shares her experiences and insights on her blog, www.adriknows.com. She’s a writer and editor, Zumba instructor, board member of the North American Women’s Association and a singer with the Budapest Sirens, in addition to her No. 1 job as parent to Eija, 8, and Edi, 5, together with her Hungarian husband.