How This Mother of Three Raises Her Children Multilingual

So many people struggle with how to teach their kids another language, yet this mother is finding a way to raise her kids to speak three languages! I remember when I met Flora and her beautiful daughter Claire. I just knew I had to include her language story. Read on to find out what it’s like living in a household with three languages, how she teaches her kids the different languages and her tips for raising kids in multilingual households.

BGLL: Tell us about yourself. Who are you and what do you do?

Flora: My name is Flora Wanja, I’m originally from Kenya (of the Kikuyu tribe), but I currently live in the Stuttgart area in Germany. Although my native language is Swahili, English and our Kikuyu languages were used when I was growing up in Kenya as well. I graduated high school in Germany went on to volunteer as a nurse in a German hospital. After that, I began an internship as a Dental Assistant, but once I became pregnant, decided to be a full-time mother instead. I have been blessed with three wonderful children aged 6, 4 and 3 years old that I’m raising to be multilingual as well.

BGLL: Which other languages do you know? How did you learn them?

Flora: I speak English and German fluently. I moved to Germany when I was 8 years old and in order to attend school, I took private classes to learn German so that I could follow along. I started learning English in Kenya and continued on when I moved to Germany as part of the required school curriculum.

BGLL: So, you teach your kids English, German and Swahili? How do you manage that?

The first language I taught my kids was English. Once they got older I started integrating German and Swahili. I teach my kids English and German, but my mother talks with them in Swahili. We speak English at home and German in public (we live in Germany). The Swahili we mostly only speak at home. I try my best to only speak to them in English at home since they only speak German in kindergarten and aren’t learning English there.
[Note: Kindergarten is a German borrow word used in the English language and means something different when used in German conversation. The American definition of Kindergarten is a school/class that prepares 4 or 5-year-old child for the first grade, the German definition of Kindergarten is similar to a pre-school/day care for kids that can be as young as a few months up until 6 or 7 years old, or whichever age the state mandates the child to attend first grade.]

BGLL: Do you mix the languages when you talk to your kids? Do they mix the languages?

Flora: Yes, it happens a lot. They often get confused. If I find that there are mixing the languages, I make it a point to correct them and make sure they say it the correct way over and over so that they get it.

BGLL: Which language is your favorite and why? What are your kids’ favorite languages?

Flora: My favorite language is Swahili because I feel a little bit closer to my country when I speak it. As far as the languages my children seem to like better, it’s hard to say. My oldest (6) and youngest (3) both seem to mix German and English when speaking. My middle child speaks German best and I think that may be her favorite.

BGLL: What tips you can offer those who are trying to learn the languages you know? Or raising kids multilingual.

Flora: Be Patient.  Listen to CD´s so u know u to spell. Have fun! You need to have fun to learn another language. For kids, I especially suggest movies and music. I don’t know any movies in Swahili but most of the movies they watch is in English. I do let them listen to church music in Swahili when my mom is around.

BGLL: How can we keep up with you on social?

Flora: My Instagram is 5un5hine8 (Please note this is a private account).
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  1. That's amazing. A lot of brown skin folks living here tend to only communicate with their kids in German. The kids end up with no idea how to speak their mother tongue and I know I'm being judgy but it's a shame really. Plus it may be stereotypical of me to assume that any family with an English speaking mum, the kids Must be able to speak English. I hope that when we do eventually get kids, they will be speaking not only German, but English as well.

    1. Thanks so much for coming by! I love to see black parents speaking to their children in another language or, even better, switching between German and other languages. I know a woman who is from Cameroon and her ex-husband is Dutch. So the father speaks Dutch and German with the kids, the mother speaks French and German with the kids, one of the kids transferred from a German kindergarten to a Dutch one and the other one is going to a German kindergarten. The kids learn English in school. I just find it all so amazing and want to raise my kids the same way.


      Language Bae


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