Episode 27: One family, three languages: A twist on the One Parent, One Language approach

On this episode of Bilingual Avenue, I interview Maria Babin.  Maria is originally from Southern California where she was raised bilingual by her Peruvian father and Mexican mother.  She developed an affinity for all things French from a very young age.  She studied French literature and early childhood language acquisition in college and currently lives in France with her French husband and four trilingual children. You can follow Maria’s multilingual journey on her blog at Trilingualmama.com

Episode #27 Quick Guide

On this episode, Maria discusses with us:

  • Her bilingual upbringing and how she became a passive bilingual;
  • How she quickly picked up her Spanish after living in Ecuador;
  • How her family decided to raise trilingual children;
  • The changes they applied to their language plan when they moved to France to keep up the three languages;
  • The language strategy she has used for the past nine years to support Spanish and English in the home for her children;
  • The appreciation her children have for their multilingual abilities now that they are older;
  • How each of her children adapted to the family’s language strategies;
  • Why it was important for her that her children spoke all three of their family languages;
  • A roadblock she has hit before and is experiencing again when it comes to vocabulary in Spanish and how she overcame the obstacle in the past and will again this time around;
  • How challenging it may be at times to help her kids with homework in the heritage languages now that they are getting older and the school assignments are becoming more complex;
  • How a recent family meeting to discuss their language progress showed her how much her children have internalized their family languages;
  • How funny their trips to the grocery store can be when onlookers realize that three languages are being spoken by the family members;
  • How her children have vocalized their pride for being trilingual;
  • How she leveraged Sesame Street to reinforce her family’s language skills in English when the kids were young and how she leverages apps on their tables now that they are older;
  • Her appreciation for Little Bilingues’ Zazoo which is written in English and French;
  • How she prioritized listening comprehension and expression over reading and writing;
  • How her children’s love for books has allowed them to transfer their strong literacy skills from one language to the other;
  • The power of writing letters to loved one to practice their writing skills;

Once we hop on the Autobahn at Bilingual Avenue, Maria shares –

  • Favorite resources: For English –  movie DVDs and for Spanish – cartoons in Spanish;
  • Best advice received: To create a clear distinction between the languages so that the children can ultimately do the same and avoid confusion;
  • What has held her back: A desire to integrate and assimilate properly into the French culture;
  • Great family habit: Their tradition to always dine together while employing all their languages;
  • Best Advice to others: Never give up!


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