Friday, March 29, 2013

bilingual kids...

A few weeks ago we reached a milestone.

Three years ago we arrived in Brazil.

They were three of the hardest, but most fulfilling years of my life.

So much has happened in this past year, and there is so much to say.  I think I need about a year to type it all out for you!

I think there is this myth of sorts floating around the "missionary on deputation world" about missionary kids and new languages.  I thought for sure I would get to Brazil and within two months my kids would speak fluent Portuguese.  I can be a little naive (or "blonde") sometimes.  :)

Everywhere we went people would tell us, "Just you wait, they'll be speaking Portuguese before you." or "They'll be teaching YOU Portuguese."  I guess it could happen with some kids, but from what we have experienced and heard (we've asked a few other missionary kids as well) this isn't always the case.

{Allie and Bethany with Camilly-they love playing with her!}

I was a little sad when after the first year our kids only knew how to say a few pet phrases, Bible verses, and a few kids songs.  Brazilians and Americans alike would ask me how their language was coming along, and I would get a little tongue-tied and give some excuse and hope they didn't ask more. All the while I was thinking in my heart, "How horrible that my kids STILL didn't speak Portuguese!"

Some would ask me if we spoke Portuguese around the house to help them learn.  The answer was no.  We tried on occasion to do this, but at first I could hardly put together a whole sentence without completely botching it.  I thought it would be crazy to try to teach my kids a language I couldn't even speak.  Plus, how can you reach their heart and communicate with them when neither of you can understand?

BUT...even though we didn't speak Portuguese at home, they were still hearing it.  Constantly.  At church they would play with their little Brazilian friends and pick up on little things.  We live in a "unique" neighborhood, and all day long people walk in front of our house on their way to work, etc.  Kids often congregate in front of our house to watch our "Americano" kids play with their toys.

They were listening, working, trying to figure it all out the whole time.

So... on to the rest of the story...
Last fall Allie started language school with the same lady that taught Jeremy and I.  She has class for an hour a day, and she has an incredible mind.  She has a thirst for reading...not so much for arithmetic. ;)  For the first few months she was learning well, but would rarely say a word of Portuguese outside of her classroom.

Then in January we decided Bethany was ready to start taking language school as well.  I told Jeremy after a few days, "If Bethany starts speaking Portuguese, then all of them will."  She has a "domineering" personality, and she doesn't get easily embarrassed.

{Bethany with Mara our language school teacher}

Sure enough, February came and along with it was Family camp.  Our girls had been talking a little bit more, but when we spent the week, day and night, at family camp, it all just exploded!

{Allie and Bethany with Mara}

It was AMAZING to watch.  Both of them were conversing, playing "house", explaining things to other little Brazilian boys and girls in their own language.

They started talking to each other in Portuguese at home.  Judah has even started speaking Portuguese in sentences.

God has been so good, and has answered our prayers.  They aren't perfect, in fact if you would listen to just a couple of sentences you could easily find several mistakes, but they are getting it.  They are communicating.  I wish I could just bring you all down here to watch!

The other day Allie asked me, "Mommy, how long do I have to go to language school?  I feel like I already know how to say everything."  Just to prove to her that she didn't know everything, I said, "Okay, if you know everything then tell me what you just said again, but in Portuguese this time."  She just smiled.  Point made.  She really DOES loves language school.

Pray for the missionary kids.  Culture shock is real, but so is God!  God very clearly led us here, and He is giving our family the tools to minister.


  1. That's awesome! And thank you so much for dispelling that myth. I've heard it over and over (and probably have been guilty of parroting it once or twice), but I've never seen it played out except in situations where the parents were fluent in the language... usually MK's themselves. Congratulations! : )

  2. Congrats! I love reading your blog and we will continue praying for you all and the language. Love you guys

  3. The language is probably the most difficult hurdle for missionaries to overcome and many from supporting churches just assume you know it after your first term. If only they knew what a struggle it can be! Praise the Lord for the progress you are seeing with your kids.... so encouraging, isn't it?!

  4. amazing! I never heard that kids would learn it that fast. but pretty neat they are speaking well now.

    Love reading your blog and catching up on your life in Brazil!

  5. Hey there, so nice to meet a fellow missionary wife. I'm gonna follow you so ill be back!

  6. Missing you guys on here - hope you can come back soon!