"If nothing else, my daughters will have received Italian as a gift from me"

The 5 Questions: How do you inspire your children to learn another language?

Profile: Gianett and daughters Laeticia (7) and Giuliana (4)
Location: New Jersey
Language learned at home: Italian

What are your favorite activities that help your daughters learn Italian?

Reading and playing games. All types of games, board games, cards,… I read many books, when the book is in English I translate it into Italian while reading to my daughters. I grew up in California and we were speaking Italian at home. I would like to provide the same language-learning environment to my children.

What are helpful resources you use?

Italian DVDs make it fun for Laeticia and Giuliana. “La Isola Perduta” is a DVD they like, as well as Beauty and the Beast in Italian.

What is your #1 challenge? How do you try to overcome it?

We live in New Jersey and Laeticia goes to 1st grade here, English-only school. So at times she would want to answer in English. I just stay strong and focused, and ask her to answer in Italian. Some parents feel like answering in English and give up, especially when other people are around. I talk to my daughters in Italian, and expect them to answer in Italian. If other people are around, I translate into English right away, so that guests or friends do not feel excluded.

Any piece of advice you have for other parents?

Make it fun and persevere. Keep the focus until your child is 6 years old. If you succeed in creating a bilingual environment until age 6, your child will continue to answer in the language you want to teach. I see that from Laeticia, and also from my experience seeing other children grow up (note: Gianett has a masters in early education and was among other things an American English teacher in Paris).

What keeps you going?

A language is a wonderful thing to share. If nothing else, my daughters will have received Italian as a gift from me.

My husband is French and communicates in French with Laeticia and Giuliana. It is key for us to maintain our home languages so that our daughters have their own personal relationship with their grandparents.

I also believe that it helps Laeticia and Giuliana be open-minded. Speaking several languages will open up a world of opportunities.