Walking along the beach always brings some calmness to my heart. The sound of the waves, the breeze playing with my hair and the sea shells catching my eyes every so often. A beach is a great place for family memories, so many lovely opportunities for play, a great...
Little Motherhood Series
Little Motherhood Series is a project dedicated to portrait photography and interviews with mums on various topics related to motherhood. For the first photo series I met Barbara Mascata from @ourmultilingualfamily and her daughter in St. Enda’s Park for a walk and chat about their favourite books and their multilingual journey. If you are a parent in a similar situation, I hope this short interview will give you some tips and inspiration on your bilingual or multilingual journey as well. When we were walking along the park and chatting about our parental ups and downs, I was also capturing some natural portraits of Barbara and her daughter. I hope you will enjoy both the words and the photography story too and feel free to get in touch if you know some other mums that should have a place in the Little Motherhood Series too.
How is your bilingual/multilingual situation in your family?
We aim to use five languages at home on a daily basis (Spanish, English, Italian, Galician and Irish). I speak mainly in Spanish and Italian with my daughter, sometimes in English when we are out and about with other people. My husband and I speak in English, although he is learning Spanish and speaks a little too. Galician and Irish are languages that at the moment we are implementing through books, music and talking about our different cultures.
Are there any habits or rules you have established for yourself and your daughter that help you with your multilingual journey?
We try to be consistent in terms of her exposure to the different languages, although always from a fun, relaxing, positive approach. I guess our main goal is to nurture her love and curiosity for our family languages. Through modelling our conversations, if she answers in English I reply in Spanish or Italian, this really encourages her to reply back in those languages.
Different activities help us to connect in our target languages: Spanish is very connected to nature and we spend lots of time outdoors exploring. Italian connection happens when we are dancing, cooking or doing a video call with my parents. Bedtime stories in Galician are helping her to love this language that is very close to my heart. I have started introducing simple rhymes and songs in Irish.
We have also started having play dates with other bilingual families and hopefully she will have a full immersion in language and culture when we travel to visit family and friends soon.
Online communities – do you follow any and are they helpful for your multilingual journey?
I am a member of Mother Tongues Ireland. It’s an incredibly supportive multilingual community that offers very helpful information, workshops, webinars, courses… Recently I have done a course with them “How to Support Reading in Two Languages” and it was very interesting. It’s also a great platform to find bilingual families in your area.
I find Instagram great at the moment with so many accounts that offer support to bilingual/multilingual families. Armonia Multilingue @armonia_multilingue is a great account that shares useful tips and brings multilingual communities together.
Are there any books you would recommend to parents in a similar situation?
I am currently reading “The Bilingual Brain” by Albert Costa and I can really recommend it. I also have the following book on my reading list: “7 Steps to Raising a Bilingual Child” by Naomi Steiner and Susan Hayes.
Is there anything you find really hard about having a bilingual-multilingual family (Spanish-Italian and Irish) and how do you tackle it?
I find it hard to live so far away from my family in Galicia and Italy. Apart from the lack of support I sometimes feel the pressure of “doing it on my own”. I find the best way to connect with the language and culture is travelling. The opportunity to spend a few days of full immersion in the language is one of the best ways too. We also use video calls as a way to connect, but what probably helps most is to feel as a part of a multilingual community. Finding other bilingual/multilingual families and sharing experience makes me feel inspired and motivated to keep going.
Are there any tips you have come across that really work or help you on your multilingual journey?
Plan situations/activities intentionally to work on your target language. Follow the child’s interests and use it to plan these activities. Books and music! Storytelling is such a powerful tool to inspire curiosity and learning (for both parents and child). Enjoy your journey and make it a positive experience!
Here are just a few questions that I would like to ask every mum who participates in Little Motherhood Stories:
Are there any children books you really like and would recommend to other mums and dads?
There are so many books we like! One of our favourites for bedtime is: “I Carry Your Heart With Me”. After our outdoor adventures we usually read: “Slow Down”. Nature stories that help us to connect after a busy day and discuss all the new things we have learned.
Places to visit with children in Ireland
What is your favourite kid friendly place or outdoor location you love visiting or you have visited with your daughter that other parents might be interested in as well?
We love parks and Saint Enda’s Park is probably our favourite at the moment. Incredible opportunities for outdoor play and there is a cafe in the park too (toilets and a good sized car park too so we always find a spot to park). The National Botanic Gardens is another great place for families with small children.
What is your favourite activity nowadays with your little daughter?
We love exploring outdoors and outdoor play is a big part of our day. It offers so many opportunities for learning and it encourages language development and social interactions too.
If you could choose one parenting mantra for yourself, what would it be?
I believe in gentle parenting based on a mutually respectful relationship with my daughter, supporting her emotional needs, empowering her to be independent and following her interests.
Is there anything you would love to share about your home country – e.g. a place to visit, or a recipe or a film, author anything really?
I come from a fishermen village called O Grove in Galicia (Spain). It is also known as “Paraiso do Marisco” (seafood paradise) and a tourist destination. In the past it was an island and nowadays it’s a peninsula, surrounded by the Atlantic ocean with beautiful sandy beaches. In front of O Grove there is a little island called “A Toxa” that can be reached via a bridge. It is well known for its soap and thermal waters, part of the wellness resort.
In many ways Ireland reminds me of Galicia. Perhaps the fact that our languages are both of Celtic origin (Gaelic and Gallego). But also similarities in terms of traditional music or nature landscapes.
Definitely worth visiting, especially during Summer or Autumn. If you are planning to do The Camino de Santiago (The Way of Saint James) , O Grove is only an hour by car from Santiago de Compostela.
A big thank-you to Barbara for participating in Little Motherhood Stories. If you would like to get in touch either for photography or possible future cooperation, please feel free to get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can fill in the form HERE.
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