In this interview you'll get to know a little bit about Hanna's family. She's Hungarian, her Husband is Tunisian and they live in France. They're raising two trilingual sons with lots of play and a laid-back and positive approach where the extended family plays an important role.
Check it out:
Tell us a little about yourself and your family.
My Tunisian husband and I met in Nantes, France, during our studies when I left Hungary to spend my Erasmus scholarship there. We fell in love 4 weeks before the end of my stay and we didn’t really believe that this relationship could work out… well, that was 12 years ago :) We moved a lot in France and a little in the UK but we ended up working near Nantes again where our two boys were born. They are 4 and 7 years old now.
What’s your approach for raising them multilingual?
The goal was clear from the beginning. We wanted them to be able to talk to their relatives in Tunisia and in Hungary in their mother and father tongues. We started with OPOL but then we just realized that they didn’t need the OPOL system to distinguish languages from each other. Both of them understood that we were talking 3 different languages when they were about 2 years old. At this age they stopped mixing them.
How do you incorporate the minority languages in your daily lives?
I started by reading Barbara Adelilah-Bauer’s books even before they were born. This helped a lot and we understood that the secret is exposure, exposure and exposure.
It was a lot easier in the beginning when we had only one child. We had more time and no one was talking to him in French at home. We were playing and reading in Hungarian and Arabic all the time.
Since his brother was born the situation changed a lot. They love playing together but they use only French - the majority language. We are both working parents, so they spend their days in French environment (nursery before, now school) and they just don’t switch. But we keep following the plan.
One of the keys to successfully raise multilingual kids is consistency. How does your family stay motivated and focused?
We never lost motivation because we know our priorities. We decided to teach them multiple languages :
> so they would be able to keep a strong relationship with their families;
> to help them to have better opportunities in the future;
> to help them grow up as open minded, respectful and tolerant human beings.
To motivate them, we have 3 strategies:
> Keeping this learning process fun and non-obligatory. We highlight success and never point out errors. We never oblige them to speak any language.
> By showing them how these languages are useful in everyday life with books, games, videos, magazines.
> By creating situations where they are in full immersion: playdates with other bilingual children in France, and holidays in Tunisia and Hungary.
The grandmothers help us a lot too. We “import” one of them for every short school holiday. Instead of sending them to an activity center we try to create full immersion at home.
How are you introducing minority language literacy?
Arabic and Hungarian are two languages that are easy to read once you learned the alphabet because you pronounce all the letters but reading French is quite complicated with its phonemes and silent letters. This is why we decided to wait until they read and write French before introducing minority language literacy.
The surprise came when at age 7 our older son came back from 3 weeks in Hungary and spontaneously started reading Hungarian. He said grandmother had showed him the letters to pronounce in a different way. And he auto-corrects his mistakes when he hears them. Now we can concentrate on learning the Arabic alphabet.
When I was pregnant with the boys I realized that most of the Arabic educational games were not as high quality as the resources we can find in other languages. The products I was looking for just didn’t exist. This is why I decided to create a new collection of educational games in collaboration with Arabic teachers and linguists.
Daradam was born in 2016. My third “baby” is this publishing house dedicated to create love for the language(s) and the cultural heritage of the Arab region. Our games can be used at home just like in school, and they are great for native Arabic speaking children and also for those learning Arabic as a second language.
Can you tell us about one of your proudest moments?
I must tell you a story. It was last summer when I went to Budapest to drop the children off at grandma’s house:
Ali (4yo): I want to go back to France.
Ali: Everyone is talking to me in Hungarian here and I don't understand everything.
Me: So why don't you tell them when you don't understand something?
Ali: I do. But they KEEP talking to me in Hungarian. 😯
Me: You know this is very normal. But don't worry, because you have a "super hero" brain with great capacities and you just need to be patient for 2-3 days so your brain can get used to Hungarian.
Ali: *smiling and being proud of his brain* 😀
> 1 day later
Aunt: This is Tonton Jean. He doesn't speak Hungarian.
Ali: It's ok. He only needs 3 days.
> 4 days later on Skype
Ali: I speak so much in Hungarian I started to forget French.
Us: 😂😂( *not worried about that)
What has been the biggest challenge so far? How do you try to overcome it?
We are still struggling with Arabic.
The biggest challenge is creating Arabic language immersion:
> with a low budget. Flight tickets are just so expensive compared to flights inside Europe.
> with a 99% French speaking Tunisian family.
> in a small French city where we don’t have a lot of choices when it comes to Arabic language classes.
I believe we will find solutions in 2019 when the kids will be able to travel a little more.
What are your favorite minority language resources at the moment?
Obviously our favorite resources are the Daradam games because we created them just like we wanted them to be: fun, responsible, cultural and educational with an elegant and modern design.
We believe that reading is important for education so we are always searching for the best Arabic children books: like the ones of Kalimat, Samir, Ossass stories, Petites Histoires Tunisiennes, and many others.
Daradam is a family project, inspired by lots of love. Thank you, Ana for letting me talk about it. Every share, every like, every post is a great help for a small business. We highly appreciate them because it’s the Daradam community that helps us grow. And growing means publishing new fun resources in Arabic.
Hanna and her Tunisian husband have two trilingual sons. She has a Master degree in Product Design. She has lived in Hungary, the UK and France.
She has worked on numerous interior design projects in the MENA region before launching Daradam, a new brand of educational games highlighting the language and the cultural heritage of the Arab region.
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