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While books in English, French and German are easy to find at the libraries and book stores in the US and Germany,  children's books in my language are rare. We stock up whenever we are on a holiday in my country or ask somebody to bring them for us. Yet the supply is never enough.

To beat this small obstacle, I've been translating stories directly into my language when reading  foreign books since we were still living in the US. I read the books in my own time to get some feelings on the story which helps to interpret smoothly and keep the story line interesting. To make sure they understand that the book is not in Indonesian, I let my kids know that mama is just retelling the story.

As some friends asked me to show how it works, below is a clip where I directly translate a  French baby book into Indonesian when reading to Louise. For French speakers, you might be able to hear Louise's French words (like when she was saying 'le fleur' when pointing at the flowers) between her Indonesian 2-3 word sentences.

Joseph is now crazy about the Ancient Egyptians.  When he borrows a book in French or German from the library, he will ask me to 'read' it in Indonesian, which is a very good addition to the little information he gets from his Indonesian world encyclopedia.  Below is a sample of me retelling a story in Indonesian from a German book.
This trick might not be perfect compares to the real reading, but from what my kids and I experience, translation/retelling/interpreting foreign books into my language is useful for everybody. I learn new words and get to understand (simple) texts in French and German besides enhancing my translating-on-the-spot skill. Kids know the Indonesian words of things they like which enables them to come to me whenever they have a question. Books in some languages might be difficult to find when we're living abroad, but there is always an alternative to fill in the gap.

 Does any of you have similar stories or other ways to share? I would love to hear them. Thank you in advance!!!


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 26th, 2009 02:20 pm (UTC)
San, sering2 ya posting video kaya gini. anak gua suka banget ! Albert ikutan nonton, tunjuk2, dan happy denger suara Lu :)
Bisa shortcut buat orang males kaya gua nih.. ga ngajarin langsung, pesen video aja dari elo.. hahaha...
Jadi kangen sama Jo dan Lu ! Sayang ga bisa ikutan pulang Indo dan ketemu kalian di Jkt.
Jul. 1st, 2009 06:12 pm (UTC)
Iya ntar gw jual2in deh videonya buat orang2 kayak elo hehehe.
Jul. 1st, 2009 09:32 pm (UTC)
Good idea, San. Pasti laku buat orang2 idealis tp males kaya gua.. hahaha...
Jun. 29th, 2009 07:37 am (UTC)
I don't know what I love more; the idea (which probably, in my situation, is even more useful to the mother involved than it is to me) or the touching videos. I love to hear the intimacy between your children and yourself. It moves me.
Jul. 1st, 2009 06:15 pm (UTC)
Did it move you, really? I'm not a playful parent and reading is a way to get closer to my kids :D.
Jul. 2nd, 2009 01:16 pm (UTC)
This makes me wish my mother had taught me Indonesian when I was small. :) It seems like such a sweet way to learn, with their favourite books.

Won't it be difficult for them to figure out how to spell things though, without actually having any written texts?
Jul. 3rd, 2009 12:00 pm (UTC)
I've asked the same question to a linguist (who raise multilingual kids herself) and she assured me that it will not hinder kids ability to read. She's right! My son reads in English since he was 4 years old. Plus, reading is a transferable knowledge, means his ability in reading English will help him to read in French, German and (hopefully also) Indonesian. So, sturmig, when you have your own kids, you can read to them in your mother tongue :D.
Jul. 25th, 2009 11:32 am (UTC)
Trilingual kid, From Germany
I'm very grateful i found your site.
I'm from KOrea studying in the USA and Australia which means Korean as my mother tounge and English as my second language from college years.

I married German and live in Germany now.

My concern is to bring up my child in trilingual enviroment.
It could be much easier if my english is my mother tounge but its not my emotional language but with my husband, we use english as our neutral language.

When i have a baby, i'm thinking about using English and Korean together spliting the week into half and half in terms of language input for my baby.

I'm not sure if my baby can even handle or if my second language , English may interfere in her/his language development since its not as authentic as its spoken by English speakers.

Worries are getting instilled into my mind.

Here, we go to English speaking church so its important for our kids to be equipped with being trilingual since we also think about going back to Australia.

I hope you can give me some useful tips as for upbringing.

My e-mail is

any books regarding trilingual children you want to recommend

thanks in advance
Jul. 25th, 2009 12:26 pm (UTC)
you are so great....
That's a hard work, I admire you and I just know little english - yuki
Aug. 6th, 2009 09:18 pm (UTC)
bilingual blog carnival

I've come across your website/blog. I'm a fellow blogger, who is raising her daughter bilingually (English and German). I'd like to raise awareness of raising children bilingually and have decided to do this through a blogging carnival where I highlight blogs about bilingualism. If you'd be interested in being featured, I'd be happy to link to a blog post of your choice.


Jun. 26th, 2010 06:27 pm (UTC)
It’s an interesting idea, I never heard it before. Your kids have the chance to learn your language and you found a brilliant way of doing that. Still, since you’re living in America I think you should also insist on English language, this would make it so much easier for them as they grow up. I know for a fact that a lot of kids have troubles with esl pronunciation although they understand English on a good level.
Jun. 27th, 2010 12:22 am (UTC)
When writing this entry, we were living in Germany and kids went to French school which teaching was conducted bilingually French-German. Now we are living in Australia and kids also go to a French school, with bilingual French-English teaching.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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