Annabelle Humanes | One Family – Four Languages : How? | Bilingual Kids Rock Podcast

On this episode of Bilingual Kids Rock Podcast, we meet Annabelle Humanes, who is the founder of the blog – Piri-Piri Lexicon.

She’s a French language researcher married to a Portuguese and they reside in Germany with their daughter, LJ.

The family speaks 4 languages on a daily basis with the aim to raise LJ into a young global citizen.

Click here to listen to Annabelle Humanes’ interview on iTunes

Click here to listen to Annabelle Humanes’ interview on Stitcher


Click here to see the show notes of this podcast episode

BKR: Please describe your family language portrait. Who speaks what to who? What are your backgrounds?

 Annabelle: We have 4 languages in our family. I’m French. My husband is from Portugal to he speaks Portuguese to her.

My husband and I actually met in England where we lived for a really long time so we started our relationship in English and never really managed to switch to another language so we speak English as a family language.

My husband and I speak to each other in English but I address my daughter in French and him in Portuguese.

We recently moved to Germany about three years ago so we added German to the mix. My husband and I are also learning German but my daughter is getting good at it.

BKR: Can you tell us a few clues that we can use to determine if our child is getting enough exposure to a language?

 Annabelle: I think it is really hard to measure enough exposure because it is so dependent on what your goals are.

If you want your child to speak the language to speak fluently and pass off as a native to the country then of course you need a lot of time for him or her to be exposed to that language.

If your aim is only for your child to understand you then maybe 10% or a few hours a week will be enough.

It is really dependent on the family but to me as long as your child understands you then they are learning something.

BKR: I know that you did the research for bilinguals vocabulary development. What kind of research was this?

 Annabelle: I did my dissertation on how French-English bilingual kids learn words. I looked at very young children and observed them when they started speaking until they were about 3.

I looked at how they learned new words if they are exposed very little to the language. I wanted to see if they still learned new words the same way and in the same order as other bilingual and monolingual children.

The answer to the question was yes. Regardless of the amount of exposure to the language, bilingual children develop in the same way and learn new words in the same way.

BKR: Can there be language delays caused by bilingualism? And if it could when should parents start to worry?

 Annabelle: My short answer would be no. There is no delay that can be attributed to bilingualism.

We have compared research that have been done with monolingual kids and we’ve found that same as bilingual children, there are children that start talking early and others that start talking late and that’s true for everyone regardless of how many languages they are learning.

But really we should never compare monolingual and bilingual children because it’s a different process with different factors. It would really be like comparing a runner to a hurdler.

BKR: I have a question about traveling. How does the family support one of the parent’s minority languages if that parent travels a lot?

 Annabelle: To be honest I’m not really doing that great on it. It is more challenging that I thought because we have the four languages and my husband is away a lot.

We have found it difficult to encourage her Portuguese because there is no Portuguese community around so play dates and the like are impossible. Also I don’t really speak much Portuguese.

To be fair that minority language suffers in our house but we are hopeful that we can balance it every time Grandma comes over or when we go there for the summer for a few weeks.

Although going over there can be quite costly but its something we have to undertake if we really want her to be fluent in it.

BKR: How did you convince your husband to start speaking to your child in Portuguese?

 Annabelle: At that time we were living in England so there were only three languages at play. As I was doing my research at that time he really had no choice because I was armed with the facts!

My husband was okay with the idea of 2 languages but he was unsure if adding another language would be too much for the child. Also he wasn’t sure if Portuguese would be as useful as French and English.

My main argument was that I didn’t want her to not understand her family back in Portugal. Also even if she doesn’t speak it but understands it then what is the worse that could happen?

BKR: What about literacy? Have you started working on it with your child?

 Annabelle: Our daughter is only 4 so she knows her name and letters. To be honest it hasn’t been something that I have really thought about yet.

My idea though was not to confuse her so I will probably let her learn these things in the majority language. Once she’s underway with that in the majority language then I will probably start with the other languages.

BKR: What would be your advice for parents planning to raise multilingual children?

 Annabelle: if parents are thinking about it I think they should not let anyone tell them it is NOT a good idea because it is a GREAT idea and it cannot harm your child!

Do your research and read. There are so many blogs and articles about parents doing it.

Also don’t overdo it. Go with your instinct and go with what feels natural. You have to be comfortable and happy with your situation.

Follow your instinct- if you think it isn’t working out or your child needs something else then do that.

BKR: Where can we find you?

Annabelle: The easiest way is through my blog-

Click here to listen to Annabelle Humanes’ interview on iTunes

Click here to listen to Annabelle Humanes’ interview on Stitcher