18 February, 2013

Multilingual - Multinumbers

In relation with our previous post about useful tools to promote bilingualism among children, I´d like to share what´s going on in our home lately. We have started improvising mind games that have turned out to be a great way to encourage awareness as well as enjoyment towards languages, always trying to keep it fun!!!

Last week we started a really fun game that I call “Multinumbers”. As I have mentioned in previous posts, my son finds really fun when I speak some German, and although I don´t have a great knowledge (let´s say my German is at an intermediate level) I sometimes drop German words or expressions here and there, just to talk about languages with him and reinforce the idea that there are different ways to speak in the world, and that it´s enjoyable, fun and useful knowing different languages to be able to communicate with other people.

The fact is that after hearing me count from 1 to 10 in German several times, he has not only learnt how to reproduce it, but he´s established the match between the numbers in the languages he knows (Spanish/English/German numbers so far…), so now he is able to say there are “cuatro coches”/”four cars”/”vier” (4 in German).

Having said that, the rules of the game we have made up are as follow:

  • It works in turns; Player 1 says a number in one of the languages in scope (Spanish/English/German).
  • Player 2 says the following number in the language that Player 1 has used.
  • Player 1 says the following number but then he/she has the option to continue with the same language or switch into a different one, which Player 2 will have to follow again.
A typical round would go like:
  • P1: “uno”
  • P2: “dos”
  • P1: “three”
  • P2: “four”
  • P1 “fünf”
  • P2 “sechs”
  • P1 “seven”
  • P2 “eight”… and on and on…

You can add players with the same scheme so Mami joins the fun at times.

Now he looks at me sometimes, and out of the blue he goes like “Papi, FÜNF!!” and starts smiling to get the game started.

He has also began to play the game of inventing words and then ask people what that means just to pull their leg, which I attribute to this new language awareness. There are other interesting things related to this new awareness:

  • He pays a lot of attention at the mouth of the people when they say something and he doesn´t know how to pronounce it, as if he wanted to learn how to move his tongue and lips to reproduce it. He is intrigued by German words as he activates his "pronunciation radar" when we play Multinumbers.
  • Although he positively knows now that I understand and speak Spanish he has never requested me to speak Spanish so far. On the contrary, he prefers English storytelling rather than Spanish, and he gives me Spanish words, songs and expressions, even Spanish names for me to translate them into English, which is really fun – Papi, How do you say “Leticia” in English?
Here´s the boy warning the piggies because there might be some wolves prowling around…

I think these kind of games and routines are resulting very beneficial, in terms of creativity, fun, and mainly for the positive attitude towards the whole idea of learning languages and using them on a regular basis.

Have you come up with any games or other similar strategies to keep your family languages up and growing? Which ones have caught on best?


  1. Super cute! How many languages does he speak?

  2. He speaks English with me (with some reminders from time to time...) and Spanish with the rest of the people. Apart from this he so much into counting lately. He is very interested in how people from other countries count things. I tought him how to count up to ten in German and Italian and he got it in no time, mum and I were really impressed. Now he counts in
    Spanish up to 20
    English up to 20
    Italian up to 10
    German up to 10
    My Italian and German aren´t good at all so I can´t go much further but the whole point is to make him aware of the existance of many languages and that it´s fun and interesting knowing many of them.