Who grew up bilingual?

Hi all! I’m looking for people who grew up with more than one language. I did not, but as a parent raising my children bilingually I’m very interested in hearing your experiences. Feel free to write in English, French, Spanish, or Polish (or another language, though I won’t understand).

I host a podcast about bilingualism and raising bilingual kids called The Future is Bilingual. Please check it out if this topic interests you.

Thank you / Merci / Gracias / Dziękuję :pray:


Hi Heather!

I was born in NYC, and my family is from Mexico. I learned Spanish first, and learned English shortly after. I still use both regularly, and now tutor in both languages online. :slight_smile:


Hi :slight_smile:

I grew up trilingual, with Arabic and German having been my native languages at home as a child. I learned English shortly after in Elementary school.



I grew up bilingual, though English was my first language up until I was three. As a three year old I traveled to Ukraine to visit my Russian speaking family for the first time and apparently after being there for three months I picked up the language. I only had the chance to actively use the language a few times for a few months at a time when family visited me in the US until my second trip to Ukraine when I was eight and again at ten. My most recent visit at 15 was a huge shock as it had been five years and I began to realize all the limitations of what I knew of the language, primarily that I couldn’t read well and couldn’t write. That has left me at a point where I am now practicing those skills to round out my knowledge of the language, and through I am fluent in speech the same cannot be said for writing.


Hi Heather,

I am a Malaysian Chinese and I grew up in an extended family; I was fortunate to be speaking in several languages and dialects depending to whom I was speaking to or with whom I was spoken to.

To my grandparents, I spoke in Cantonese.
To my father and siblings, I spoke in English .
To my mother, I spoke in Mandarin and Hokkien (her dialect group)
In school, I spoke in Malay, our national language and English.

The experience was rather unique as it trains you to identify with sounds and pronunciation. It also allows you to think in that particular language and not to translate it say from a stronger language, typically English.

It is definitely very helpful in my Japanese learning and now with me dabbling in French and Korean, though I find it might be easier for me to translate French.

Happy to share more if you like.



I have a similar background as @ivany78

I spoke mainly Hokkien with my grandparents (paternal side from Penang in Northern Malaysia and maternal side from Selangor in Southern Malaysia) plus my maternal grandmother was from Taipei, Taiwan. I grew up basically speaking 3 different versions of the Hokkien dialect lol, plus English with my parents and Tamil with my neighbours - not many Malaysian Chinese can speak fluent Tamil so I guess I have the aunties from down the street to thank! Malay is our official language and is taught in all schools.

So yup, that’s my linguistic background. To complicate matters I now work as an English-French-Malay translator and social media moderator.



¡Hola, Heather!
Te voy a escribir en español. Yo me he criado con dos idiomas diferentes (catalán y español) al haber nacido y haberme criado en Valencia. Con mi familia y algunos de mis amigos hablo en catalán; con otros amigos hablo en español. Además, he estado aprendiendo inglés desde que tenía 5 años. Obviamente no me considero nativa en inglés, no he tenido el mismo las mismas experiencias en inglés que en español y catalán mientras crecía (no hablo inglés con nadie de mi entorno, mi familia, mis amigos…). Pero sí lo considero un idioma con el que he crecido toda mi vida y, por tanto, mi mejor idioma extranjero, el idioma en el que más nivel tengo y tendré en mi vida probablemente.
Algo que me pasa es que, aunque el español y el catalán son los dos idiomas en los que me considero nativa, siento un cariño especial por el catalán. Le tengo más cariño a la gente con la que hablo catalán que a la gente con la que hablo en español. Es como que me siento más cercana a ellos.


Hi Heather!

I grew up bilingual with both Spanish and Basque. However, due to political and historial stuff, Basque is not really use. Regarding Basque can understand and speak it perfectly unless someone uses a weird dialect. I would also like to add, that I don’t really speak Basque at home since my dad does not speak it and my mum learnt it as an adult. I learnt it through tv and later on in kindergarten and school.


Miguel, that’s wonderful! Do you remember struggling to learn English or were you too young?

Zeina, that’s so cool that you learned 3 languages so young! Do you ever feel like 1 language is stronger than the others?

Gloria, that is really fascinating! Good for you for working to build up your skills now. What resources are you using and finding most helpful? I’m trying to read more in Polish because although I can speak it well, my reading and writing skills are weaker.

Hi Heather!
I grew up with both French and English. The first language I learned at home was French, and I started learning English when I was around 4. I grew up in Vancouver, Canada (an English-speaking city), but spoke French at home with my mother and sister and English with my father.

I also went to French-language elementary and secondary schools. All my classes were given in French except for English of course. Both my French and English classes were first language level which allowed me to speak and write both languages proficiently.

French was reserved for home and school, whereas English was the language I used almost everywhere else (at the grocery store, with my neigbours, at the restaurant, etc.).

I started learning Spanish at around 13 and started quite a few other languages during my teens. Learning two languages in my early childhood definitely helped me with foreign languages and gave me an advantage compared to my monolingual counterparts. I will always be thankful for having had the opportunity to grew up bilingual. Good on you for raising your kids bilingual!


I think all three are equally strong. However, I always needed to review their grammars, spelling rules, etc. to avoid mixing them up. Practice was definitely key in achieving and maintaining native fluency.

For me, that especially counts for German and English, for which I needed a constant reminder on stress particularly. You know because in English, we often infer meaning by stressing syllables, such as in content (noun) and content (adjective), but German stress is often represented by writing the letter twice, such as in “Mutter” and “besser”.

So, when I was younger, I used to write English words with double letters to show the stress I heard when pronouncing them, like “musstard” and “bitt” and “quitt” :rofl:
Thankfully not anymore… :joy:

Also German things are not all gender-neutral syntactically like in English. And Arabic does not have any grammatically neutral gender at all. So, I often had issues guessing whether things in German are masculine, feminine, or neutral and often miswrote determiners as a result. :sweat_smile:

What about you? Any challenges you have faced with the languages you know?



Born in the USSR (where Russian was enforced as a dominant language) and school was all по-русски. Had little Ukrainian until 1991 (independence) when tables have turned. University was mostly Ukrainian. The switch happens naturally, when someone starts talking to you in Russian. But I am from the central Ukraine, where it’s 50/50. As you travel further to the West bilingualism gradually diminishes and it feels more natural розмовляти українською.


Not really. As a child, when my parents got us cable, I started watching cartoons in English, and it helped to learn the language a lot, while being in bilingual education for 5 years. I started speaking good Spanish after 5 years old, and I got good with English when I was 8. After bilingual education, I had English education the rest of the way.


Hi Heather!

It has definitely been interesting getting older and realizing where my skills were. I like to say I grew up but my ability in the language didn’t all that much :sweat_smile:

I have mostly been making a point of speaking only Russian at home with my mother since we would normally speak English. For reading, I have some basic Russian books and I have been reading translated WEBTOONS and little things like changing my phone to Russian have helped a lot. As for writing, I just purchased a keyboard cover for the language but I have yet to dive into the realm of Russian cursive. I hope that from reading more my writing ability and spelling will come to me more intuitively!

It is definitely strange since I understand almost everything I read, but can read at about 40% of how quick I go in English, which is extremely frustrating. What resources have worked for you to improve your polish reading skills?

Thanks for the response!


Hi Heather! I remember commenting on another one of your posts so hopefully I’m not repeating myself too much haha. Both my parents are from Poland and spoke to me exclusively in Polish, and I was born and grew up in Canada. I went into kindergarten knowing little to no English but I don’t remember struggling (even though I probably did). As I finished the majority of my schooling in English, I noticed that my Polish was not nearly as good as my English, however it was better than a lot of my peers in similar heritage language situations. Saturday school in Polish was definitely an important part of being able to read and write in the language, especially because the spelling can be somewhat challenging.


My story is maybe a bit different. :slight_smile: I was born in the Czech Republic but my Dad is German. He spoke German to me when I was very little but then kind of stopped because I would always answer in Czech. One of the biggest reasons he didn´t really continue speaking German to me and my siblings is that his Czech is very good and he likes to fit in and didn´t want to attract attention by speaking a different language than the others.
However, we always watched German TV and I understand almost without any problems. I also had 4 years of German at high school, with more advanced students which was a big challenge at the beginning because my German was only passive before that… But then it got much easier. :slight_smile:
However, I haven´t spoken much in the recent years so I´ve already forgotten quite a lot but still understand well.


That’s great that you got such a strong French education in Vancouver. Is your Mom from Québec, France, somewhere else? Your name is very French :blush:

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Interesting story. Did people speak other languages at home or just Russian? Sorry, my history knowledge of the USSR is very weak.