My friend Annika Bourgogne recently published the popular book “Be Bilingual,” which is full of practical, creative, and fun ideas backed up by the latest research, on families juggling two or more languages- who still make it enjoyable. She holds a Master of Arts degree in French and English from the University of Helsinki, and is mother to two bilingual daughters. Passionate about family bilingualism, she is constantly looking for new ways to combine real-life parenting with the latest research on the subject. She teaches French, English, and Swedish in Helsinki, Finland.
Tell us about your family Annika.
We are a French-Finnish family living in Finland. I’m a Finn and my husband Gilles comes from France. He has lived in Finland nearly half his life, but has still been able to keep his French cultural identity and pass it on to our children. We have two daughters: Sara, 8 and Emma, 13.
What languages do you speak and with whom?
We speak Finnish and French at home. We started out with a very strict OPOL (One Parent One Language) approach where Gilles would always speak only French and I only Finnish to the girls. Together we parents always spoke French. This worked well, but with the very Finnish environment we lived in French was definitely in a minority position and needed a lot of reinforcement. Over the past few years we have gradually moved more towards having French as the family language when everyone is together and the girls often speak French to me even if I’m alone with them, too. I still use Finnish at times, for example when I lecture them on manners and don’t want them to correct my French while I’m doing it!
Friends and family members who asked me advice on raising bilingual children! I was so passionate about the topic that I always ended up giving them a lot more information than they wanted at that moment. I realized that it would be a lot easier if I could just write a book that would combine what I had learned while doing my master’s thesis on the subject and while looking for practical solutions to make it work in my own family, and that they could read at their own pace.
Tell me about the book, Be Bilingual.
Be Bilingual is full of practical, creative, and fun ideas backed up by the latest research, that show families how juggle two or more languages and still make it enjoyable. The book has ideas for families in many different multilingual situations: mixed-language marriages, expats, international adoption, single parent, trilingual families, and parents who speak a non-native language to their children. The practical ideas cover topics such as reinforcing the minority language to achieve active bilingualism, helping children become biliterate and bicultural, as well as the different situations that bilingual families face in everyday life.
You can find Be Bilingual – Practical Ideas for Multilingual Families on amazon as well as many other online retailers (here is the kindle version).
What is one of your favorite tips from the book?
My favorites are the tips about reinforcing the minority language and especially how to make travel to the minority language country possible even if you have no family there and it costs too much. You can also organise a “German weekend” or a vacation camp at home together with other parents who speak the minority language. Each day a couple of the parents organize fun activities in that language, like cooking, singing, playing games, watching videos, etc. It’s a great way to make immersion in the language fun and not too much work for each parent. You can even have a big party for everyone at the end!
If you’re a bilingual- or trilingual, or more!- family, check out this book for many more fun tips and stories of incorporating languages into your family! Get even more advice from Annika at her web site Be Bilingual, and meet other multilingual families on her facebook page.