How I’m Raising Bilingual Kids



Growing up, I always considered myself 100% Finnish and 100% American. I am Finnish on my mother’s side, born in Finland, and raised in the United States. I didn’t feel the need to choose between or split my identities, and I believe that was in part because I grew up speaking Finnish with my mother and English with my father. I married an American who happened to have lived in Finland for a couple of years, and so he speaks Finnish. We decided that I would speak Finnish to our kids, and he would speak English to them.

We now have a 6-year-old, Alexandra, and a 3-year-old, Gabriel (whom I call Kaapo). So far, their fluency in Finnish has developed well enough for them to feel confident, and they are often mistaken as residents when we visit Finland every two years. In Minnesota, where we live, there is a large Finnish-American community, so I have met families in varying stages and with varying approaches to Finnish language in their homes. I believe each family should do what’s best for them, in consideration of their priorities and circumstances. Whether you’re going for full dual language fluency in a one-parent-one-language approach, or you are making a light introduction for a second language, I organized my reflections on my own experience into 5 takeaway tips:


1. Make it your norm.

Home Tour: Krause Sisters Cultivate Roots

Two sisters, Starla and Robin Krause, bought a house together in 1981. On the corner of a parkway in north Minneapolis, the 1931 Tudor had room to grow and a charming patina. At the time, Starla and Robin were Kansas transplants with just-budding careers, and now they are happy to be rooted and thriving Minnesotans. Through the years, they have invested their time and talents into the community. Starla is a caterer and Robin is a food stylist, and both have an enthusiasm for simple, whole and delicious cooking. They co-founded Kids Cook, where they teach and work alongside students and community volunteers to grow, harvest and prepare food in the schoolyard garden. I wasn’t surprised that this sense of cultivation and community-building is evident throughout their home.