Community Tutor
Bringing up bilingual children

I have two beautiful children and we are living in Italy. My daughter was 8 months old when we came to live here and my son was born here.

I'm British and their dad is Irish, we speak English at home. We live a very social lifestyle in a small village and fully integrate ourselves into the Italian lifestyle, school, sports clubs, and local cultural events.

The point of my discussion is that my daughter is fluent in Italian and English and is comfortable conversing in both, on the other hand my son struggles and has a very basic knowledge of Italian he is 8 years old. We all learn in different ways and we can't compare one child against an other.


Are there any other parents of bilingual children here, who have experiences to share and what challenges if any they may be facing. Thanks.



Jul 19, 2014 8:36 AM
Comments · 4

I more or less disagree with you Jane. Although it depends on how good the asker of the question is at Italian. But, if you cannot speak fluent Italian, dont speak Italian. He will possibly learn your bad accent and grammar. You can ask his sister to speak Italian to him, perhaps. Also I wonder if there are different circumstances between the two. Does the boy have friends who speak English to him? Then you should avoid that. I would opt for an extra teacher to teach him Italian. Hence extra lessons apart from school. I have a daughter and she speaks two languages natively, but I spoke one, and the mother spoke the other, so that situation is not equal to yours. Together we spoke the mothers language. The reason was just practical. I could learn more quickly then my former spouse.

July 19, 2014

Could you not help him by speaking Italian at home, at least some of the time? He must be struggling to communicate with his schoolfellows if he has only a rudimentary knowledge of Italian, and it could in time impact his confidence and his ability to progress at school. You may fear that by speaking Italian at home he will lose his fluency in English, but at this stage of his development it's more important for him to gain fluency in the language that he's immersed in outside the home, rather than in his ancestral language, especially if you intent to remain a while yet in Italy.  

July 19, 2014

Thank you for sharing your thoughts, your comments have been very useful to me, some interesting tips and suggestions.

July 20, 2014

Yes, I see what you mean Eloquent about passing on bad habits and a poor accent. I suppose I was just assuming that, after 8 years in Italy and full immersion in their local community, his parents would speak correct and fluent (albeit accented) Italian. 


I'd try ti immerse him as much as possible in Italian without making him even aware that that's what you're doing...Italian talk radio on in the background when you're eating breakfast or preparing for school, Italian bed time stories and children's books laying around the house, Italian TV, songs, comics etc...and, if all else fails, an Italian tutor.  

July 19, 2014