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Bilingual Mom: Filipa Pinto

This mama is part of our MamaLingua online community. A native of Portugal and resident of Australia, Filipa Pinto is raising multilingual kids – and citizens of the world.

What's your bilingual story?

We are a family of four. I was born in Portugal and raised in France. I grew up bilingual, speaking Portuguese at home and French outside of the house. I came to Australia 13 years ago to get my master’s degree and I met my husband, Alibis, at the university. He’s an engineer who arrived from Peru at the same time and was working as a post-graduate student.

I’m fluent in Spanish; Alibis speaks French; we communicate in Spanish. We officially migrated after graduating, and a few years later, our children were born. From day one we decided to apply the OPOL (one parent, one language) strategy: I only speak French to our children and my husband only speaks in Spanish. We never speak English at home because they will get it at school. So far, so good!

Why did you decide to raise bilingual children?

I was raised bilingual, so I thought that my kids would at least be bilingual.

My husband and I both migrated to a country whose language is different from our mother tongues, so it made sense that our children would have an opportunity to have the best start in life by being raised in several languages at the same time.

There are so many benefits, and we believe that speaking several languages will make them more tolerant, open-minded, and inquisitive. They like to learn and are taught to cherish differences.

What has kept you motivated?

It seems that knowing several languages makes them more outgoing. It's working, and I love seeing them communicate with their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins in France and in Peru.

Last year we spent four weeks in Europe and it was such a nice feeling to witness my children speaking with their cousins as natives in French. Everywhere we went, as soon as they heard people speaking French, Spanish, or English, they could not help but engage.

Because of our children – and because I couldn’t find resources in their minority languages or didn’t like what I found – we started a bookstore specializing in language books for children and adults.

We now promote plurilingualism and multiculturalism through our various activities. These range from providing language resources to running language workshops and workshops on how to raise bilingual children. We organize language play dates for the wider community and take part in volunteer activities to expand bilingualism in our community.

Any words of advice for our community?

Be consistent, persistent, disciplined. You are you, so don’t compare your children to your friends’ children. Be honest with yourself and clearly identify your objectives. Raising a child to be fully proficient (writing, reading, speaking) in two or more languages will require more resources – time, effort, money for books, DVDs, etc. – than raising a passive bilingual.

Do not give up – and make it fun! Take every opportunity to practice the minority language. We take our children to playgrounds, exhibitions, and plays, and we read a lot every single day in our minority languages. We also play many different games and organize play dates in French and Spanish.

Be sure to check out her online bookstore @letobogganbookstore to find a collection of bilingual books available in Australia. Use coupon code mamalingua for a 10% discount.

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