How (and why) We Are Raising Our Kids Bilingual

One of the most frequent questions I get in regards to us living in Australia is: “Do the girls speak both Australian and Danish?” followed by “do you speak Danish with them?”

The short answer is yes. They are, what you would call, bilingual. They understand Danish fluently and can switch back and forth between Australian and Danish effortlessly. However, they don’t actually speak much Danish when we are in Australia.

I guess it makes sense. Here in Australia it’s only me who speaks and understands it, but they know that I fully understand them if they speak Australian back to me. So why bother? That’s what it seems like they are thinking. However, in Denmark they learned that especially other kids don’t understand them unless they speak to them in Danish. This has been a huge eye opener for Abby, especially. She’s such a social little butterfly.

On our recent trip to Denmark magic happened and Abby started to actually speak a lot of Danish. Those 6 weeks we were there made such a difference in her Danish vocabulary and her pronunciation and it is obvious that the words are in there – she just has to practice using them.

And she does practice at home with me now. We speak Danish together daily and I love it. Billie is also tagging along as she does and says pretty much everything that Abby does. She is still mixing the two languages a lot, but she’s getting there and Danglish is so damn cute – and even if it is not perfect, it is so amazing hearing my children speak my language. It just matters.

How do we do it?

I am being very consistent, persistent and determined. Otherwise it wouldn’t work with me being the only Danish speaking parent. At home I only speak Danish unless we are having a group conversation involving Josh. I even speak Danish when Josh is present sometimes. It can make the communication in our house a bit messy, but Josh actually understands quite a lot of Danish by now and he can usually follow our conversations enough to join in if he wants to.

I also read Danish books to them, sing Danish songs, they watch Danish cartoons and we have started doing some easy Danish exercises with Abby, now that she can read and write a bit.

An added bonus is our Danish friends here in Brisbane, who gives us just that extra little bit of Danish almost every week. I do believe that makes a difference to get inputs from others than me.

The girls making our friends happy in Denmark 🙂

Then, of course, we visit Denmark regularly. Every time we do so their Danish evolves with the speed of light. Kids can adapt and learn so much, so fast. It is amazing.

Why do we even bother?

I mean, Danish is not exactly a language they can use many places in the world. In fact, they can only use it in Denmark and in Denmark everyone over the age of 10 speaks English pretty fluently.

Well, first of all I would be sad if my children didn’t understand my language and my culture – which I believe is closely connected to language. It means a lot to me that they, not only know, but also understand where they come from.

Then, of course, there is the practicality of it. That they can actually speak the native language when we are in Denmark makes it both easier and more fun for them to be there. Especially now, when they are playing with cousins and friends there who have not yet learned English. I guess it’s also another way of better understanding the culture. To be completely integrated when we are there and not have a language barrier, makes a huge difference.

There are also other more, lets call them, intellectual benefits connected with bilingualism. They are not the direct reason why we do it, but they definitely are added bonuses. Being bilingual is supposedly a great way to train childrens’ brains and make learning easier for them in the future. Not only new languages but also other subjects. And it can potentially help them fight off brain diseases such as dementia in the future.

There really isn’t any downside to bilingualism, as I see it, so we will keep on doing my very best to keep them bilingual. No matter where we’ll live in the world in the future, we will speak both Danish and Australian in our home. At a minimum.

Actually, Abby has started learning Japanese in school now. I think that’s pretty cool, but it might be a Danish thing. Learning Japanese in Denmark is quite exotic, here it’s more common I guess. Anyways, learning a third language by the age of five is cool no matter what – and I have already started dreaming of a trip to Japan sometime soon-ish. To support my child’s education, of course 🙂

Billie learning about Danish culture.

Have a nice day / ha’ en god dag / konichiwa (that’s all I know in Japanese)❤️


Weekend Vibes

I love our weekends here in Brisbane. The everyday is up and down – but the weekends are special to us.

When we lived in Wollongong Josh worked shift-work and he very rarely had the weekends off and, anyway, we never knew if he did until Friday afternoon at 4 pm. so we didn’t have much time to plan anything. So yeah, back then weekends were pretty random. If Josh was working I was just hanging out with the kids like on every other day. If Josh had the weekend off we mostly went to Sydney so he could play soccer with his friends. It was actually pretty hyggeligt. I sometimes miss the continuety of knowing that I would hang out with some friends and have a beer or three on the weekend. If we had a “real” weekend, that is.

However, even if we often opt for the same activities the weekends up here are ours completely – and I really, really appreciate them!

Our weekends start out Friday afternoon, I guess.

Like, this Friday we took a ferry (free city ferry, I love it) went to the Gallery of Moderne Art Brisbane for a couple of hours, listened to some LIVE music in a park and went to the beach pool aka. South Bank with some friends before we went home to have a sneaky Maccas meal followed by our Friday movie and Friday lollies – that’s a tradition, don’t mess with it!

Saturday was pretty chilled. No big plans. The mood was good all around all day – not a given with three kids, I tell ya.

Today the weekend peaked at the beach. Being a bit homesick for Denmark I had to be reminded of why it’s so amazing to live here. Why we are so lucky to live in this little gem of a spot. And I was. Reminded.

People travel so far to experience this. We have it in our backyard. Well, a backyard an hour from our house, but still. Going here with friends on a normal Sunday in January is not too bad at all.

And ohhh my, the feeling of freedom when I’m out there on my board. Then I almost forget how annoying the girls were in the car on the way there…

…and now, as I write this in the car on the way home, all three girls are sleeping/relaxing with no complaints about life whatsoever.

The beach is always a good idea!

Our first two weeks in Brisbane

Two weeks ago we packed up our house in Wollongong and went on a one-way road-trip to Queensland to start our new life in Brisbane.

The view from our local river walk

Sometimes it seems like yesterday,but most days I feel like we have been Queenslanders for ages. Not that our house looks particularly neat or unpacked. At all! But it already feels like this is our home. Our neighbourhood is amazing, the street we live in is very central in Brisbane, yet at the same time it is really quiet and peaceful.

The girls can even ride their bikes and scooters on the footpath in front of our house while we keep an eye on them from the terrasse. Such a positive difference for us.

Our daily routine is still quite random. However, the girls have started swimming lessons twice a week so at least they have that to lead them through the week.

Since we arrived here just under two weeks ago, we haven’t had much time to paint and organize the house. The first week was rather hectic. We were tired from the move, my cousin was still visiting and we did do a bit of socializing and touristy stuff. Then Josh went back to Wollongong for 4 days over the weekend, so obviously I didn’t get much practical stuff done then. I mainly just kept my children alive and my sanity relatively healthy.

Now, we are ready to get into it. The painting, that is. And there’s a lot to get into. The house consists of two good sized bedrooms with rather big walk-in wardrobes, a smaller guestroom/office, a hallway, a bathroom, a big kitchen/living room, a laundry and an extra little toilet. Oh, and a pretty big – and awesome – terrasse. So yeah, it’s a decent size house…and it all has to be painted. A lot of work to come, but once it’s done it will be absolutely amazing.

First real room we’re painting is the girl’s bedroom. We’ve got this!

Today Reality Hits (buhuuu!)

This morning I took my cousin, who has stayed with us for 18 days, and Josh to the airport. 


My cousin is going home to Denmark and Josh is going back down to Sydney and Wollongong to finish off our old house, hand it over to the realestate and drive back up to Brisbane with the rest of our stuff in a van. 

Saying goodbye was not easy.


Now, the girls and I will be hanging out in our new home alone for atleast 4 days. No biggie. Or, to be honest it is a bit daunting. We’ve been living in a kind of bubble the past week. Tired and busy but at the same time excited to be in our new home and first and foremost, we’ve been together for 24/7. This is the first time I have to be on my own here in Brisbane – with the kids, that is. 

To play ‘single parent’ for several days is always a challenge – hats and glasses and shoes and make-up off for those who does it all-day-everyday. Seriously. You guys are legends! But to do it in a house that is still nowhere near an established home and in a brand new town and neighbourhood – that is going to be exciting. Lets call it that. Ohh, and ad a very tired, pregnant mum and two tired and emotionally overstimulated girls to the mix.   “Oh, dear!” as Mummy Pig would put it.

I have already made some pretty decent plans for us, I’d say, so we should be sweet We’re going to the pool, the skatepark and the playground(s). But of course. And we’re going to IKEA to eat meatballs, to Bunning’s to buy a plant or two and will probably also have dinner at McDonald’s. Because surviving mentally is more important than eating a balanced diet. Right?

So yeah, we’ve got it sorted. It will be fun……………………right?

Wish me luck, guys!

Love M.❤️

So, now we live in Kangaroo Point

Wow! We did it! We moved to Brisbane – and we have no regrets. 




We do have a lot of work to do in terms of painting our entire(!) new home, unpacking, getting organized, finding a new preschool (which apparently is called kindy up here?!), new GP (doctor), new midwife, new gymnastics school, new swim school, new network, new bla bla bla…

But hey, things are sloooowly happening. I mean, I have painted the walk-in wardrobe in the girls’ room and we have found the box with party accessories, so we’re off to a good start, I’d say. 

Ohh, and we have found our new Bunning’s, Coles and, most importantly, IKEA. So yeah, we’re getting there. 

Moving with kids is always a bit of a hazzle, I think. And moving interstate doesn’t make it any easier. However, we are trying to make it as easy on them as possible. They were both little troopers on the long 1000 km. drive up here and they have taken in all the new impressions in style. Yes, they have been tired. So have/are their parents. Yes, there are some big emotions going through them, especially Abby, when they thinks about their friends back in Wollongong. Yes, they probably do get affected by the chaos that is our home at the moment. But they also have fun and experience a lot of new, exciting things every day. To them, for instance, it’s absolutely amazing that they can ride their bikes and scooters to the local park to have a play. 


And yesterday we went to a beach on Bribie Island, around an hours drive from our home. That was love at first sight. Never have I seen either of them jump in the waves for so long and with so much energy. They were loving it and Abby even caught some waves on her surfboard – with no complaints about the cold water. Because the water isn’t cold – at all. It is beautiful. Even I enjoyed swimming in it. Says a lot. 


I can definitely picture us going to the different beaches up here regularly, getting our surf on. Yay! 

For now we will keep on making our new house into our home, while exploring this amzing city and it’s surroundings. Ohh, and also attend to my cousin, who is currently visiting us from Denmark. We think (hope) she has a good time even though she has been thrown into the middle of our moving chaos and our tired tantrums 🙂 


I’ll try to keep you guys updated on the progress around our house and with our new life in Brissy in general. So stay tuned if you like to follow our new, exciting journey❤️

Love M.

WOW, WE INVITED STRANGERS INTO OUR HOME

We took a chance. And we are so very happy that we did.

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The steepest train in the world. Photo credit: littlehugelove.dk

This past week we have had a Danish family of four – Mom Jeanette, Dad Jonas, Marvin 5 years, and little baby Dexter 8 months – living with us. We had never met them before they arrived here – at least not in real life – so it was a bit of a gamble if having them here would be a success or a complete disaster.

Jeanette runs the Danish blog Little Huge Love and we have found each other on Instagram some months ago in connection with her planning her family’s trip to Australia and me being a Dane already living here. In August they moved to Canberra for three months in connection with Jonas’ job and are now doing a bit of a Down Under round trip. Their first stop was: Our house in Wollongong.

To be honest I was a little bit worried about how this would all turn out. I mean, what if we had nothing to talk about? What if the kids couldn’t connect? What if it got too intense for us to have strangers living in our home? What if? What if? What if?

I love being social but I also need my own space. And I can actually quite easily get mentally overwhelmed if I have to be around people I don’t feel 100% comfortable with. It drains me to be ‘ON’ – especially when I’m tired and pregnant. So, to say ‘yes’ to a whole family of strangers to live with us for a week was quite daunting for me.

But I did it. And I have no regrets. Neither has Josh. And the girls have had the best time.

Children are so damn cool.

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Kiama Blow Hole

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The Blue Mountains, Scenic World. Photo credit: littlehugelove.dk

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Making a castle. Photo credit: littlehugelove.dk

The kids have played extremely well together. There has literally been less than five conflicts between them all week. Even the language barrier, that I was actually a bit worried about beforehand, was no real issue. Abby, of course, understood everything Marvin said, since she understands Danish perfectly. The problem with her and other Danish children normally is that she doesn’t speak the language fluently. She answers them in Australian and that can create some major communication problems and even frustrations and conflicts.

But the fact that Marvin has lived three months in Canberra, where he got used to the Australian language and even learned some words and phrases, helped a lot. He actually understood most of what Abby said and I also think he enjoyed that she understood everything he said, since the children he played with in Canberra most likely didn’t.

They quickly found each other and not only did Marvin learn some more Australian, Abby’s Danish language has also developed tremendously this past week just by hanging out with her new friend. Even Billie has started to say some words in Danish now. I love it. I hope we can maintain and maybe even expand the Danish vocabulary they have build up. At least I now know that they have the ability to speak Danish build into their growing, little brains and it’s not hiding too deep inside. Hurra!

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Beach Time in Wollongong

 

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Little photographer apprentice in Kiama

Friendships truly were formed in our home during this past week. Hey, today I spent half an hour comforting Abby and Billie because they ‘already miss their friends!’

Actually, I got a little bit emotional too. I thought I would be relieved to have our home to ourselves again, but I didn’t really feel that. Instead I felt a bit numb.

Of course, it’s always a bit sad to say goodbye to friends leaving, even if they are new friends, but the fact that they are Danish plays a huge role for me. It felt really, really nice to have someone here that understands where I’m coming from, understands the issues I’m dealing with, and shares the same deeply rooted Danish values. And also, just to be able to speak my own language for a bit. And hear my children speak it too. It all felt very natural and pretty relaxed most of the time, something that isn’t always a given for us down here.

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Chillaxing after the girls’ birthday party

Hey, it was also quite practical to have some extra persons living here! When we were preparing the girls’ birthday party on Saturday they helped out heaps(!) Had it not been for Jeanette there would probably have been no homemade caramel slices, strawberry tarts or chocolate cupcakes to serve, and if it hadn’t been for Jonas our grass would not have been freshly mowed when the guests started arriving.

We owe them a HUGE thanks for the help – and we hope that we have been good hosts and given them a nice start to their wonderful holiday in Australia and Fiji. We did manage to show them around Wollongong a bit and took them on a day-trip up to the Blue Mountains, so there is no doubt that we have had a really nice week ourselves. Lots of good times and lots of good company. We cannot complain.

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A happy little family in The Blue Mountains

We can only encourage others to open their homes to “strangers”. It’s definitely a ‘seeeee ya, later’ to the Mortensen’s and we are already looking forward to welcoming other friends into our home someday soon – old or new.

But for now Josh will enjoy that he doesn’t need to wear clothes(!) around the house all the time and lets see if we can manage to get back into a normal daily routine before Christmas. I doubt it.

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Boys get tired too.

Have a happy Monday everyone!

 

Thailand Episode 1

We went to Thailand for three weeks and it was absolutely amazing. There. That’s the short version of our recent three week holiday – our first “real” holiday together as a family, actually. Not including our several trips to Denmark, of course, as they just go in the “going home for a visit”-category.

The long version of our trip is rather…long. So long that I have decided to divide it into two parts. This first part will deal with our initial three days in Bangkok and our trip to Koh Chang with my brother and his family.

Ready for take-off!

BANGKOK WITH KIDS

We flew into Bangkok in the middle of the night and we went straight to our hotel, Chatrium Riverside where we arrived at 3am.- just in time to get a couple of hours sleep before sunrise to suppress any possible jetlag. And it worked out pretty much perfectly. We all woke up around 8am. More than ready to indulge in the huge breakfast buffet by the riverside before we jumped in the pool to start off our holiday with the first of what seems like thousands of swims.

The hotel was great and it suited our needs very well. As the name suggests, it’s located at the river and from our riverside room, we had an amazing view of the city and of the busy river where the girls loved watching all the boats sail by. Great in the day, absolutely stunning at night time.

From the hotel there is a free shuttle boat that sails to a nearby hub for tour boats and taxi boats and it is also where the nearest sky train station is located. It was very convenient for us, since we were so clever to forget to bring our baby carrier on the trip. Like, we forgot it back home in Australia. Man, did we regret that again and again. So, pretty much wherever we went on our entire holiday we had Billie in the stroller. It made walking the streets of Bangkok quite a challenge. None-the-less, it’s what we did the first day. We walked a lot.

After our slow morning at the pool we went all in on sightseeing in the old part of Bangkok. Catching a ferry/boat taxi there was easy and a good way to see a bit of the city from the waterside, and as we got there we basically just walked for 5 hours. We walked through markets, we walked through tempels, we walked on random roads, we walked, and walked, and walked. We ate too. We ate really, really good, cheap street food and also found a tiny, little café that served us some of the best food we ever had on our trip. Fair to say that we were very tired as we, late in the afternoon, got back to the pier to catch a ferry back to our hotel.

The next day didn’t go exactly as we had imagined. Abby woke up at 5am and that influenced the entire day. She was tired, grumpy and emotional from the start and when she is in that mood she is not fun to bring anywhere. We decided that we had to try to give her a nap before venturing out into the city. Unfortunately that turned into quite a battle.

A tired three-year-old that refuses to sleep, a dad that is very determined that she HAS to sleep, a mum that is also tired and frustrated that we are wasting our time in the hotel instead of experiencing Bangkok, now that we only have two days here. And then on top of that a one-year-old that got woken up by her over-tired, crazy sister during her nap, so she didn’t get nearly as much sleep as she needed. Yeah, it was a combo doomed to fail.

It ended up with me taking Billie for a long walk in the neighbourhood while Josh stayed back at the hotel where he finally got Abby to sleep. She ended up sleeping for three hours. She needed it. Billie never really went back to sleep and I eventually caved in and realized that travelling with children ultimately has to be on their terms. Instead of going for some late afternoon sightseeing for the the adults’ sake we let Bangkok be Bangkok and had dinner poolside in our swimmers. We had some great hours swimming in the lid up pool while we were watching all the lights from the city. It was not too bad at all, actually.

Before we went to Bangkok we had heard both good and bad about it. Some people even adviced us to ‘don’t waste your time there’.

We decided to decide for ourselves. And we are happy we did. We loved Bangkok. Yes, it was smelly. Yes, it was busy. Yes, there’s a lot of traffic and there is not pretty footpaths everywhere (like there isn’t in most suburbs I’ve been to in Australia). But we knew all that before we went. We were prepared for it and Bangkok is also so, so much more. It’s full of life. It’s full of culture. It’s full of impressions and food. So much food! Good, cheap street food. Unfortunately two days were not enough. Especially since one of those two days was basically just spend at our hotel. We did not have time to see and experience nearly enough, but we got a tiny taste of what Bangkok has to offer and we will most definitely be coming back for more.

FAMILY TIME IN RELAXING KOH CHANG

After our days amongst the hustle and bustle of Bangkok, it was time to unite with my brother, his wife, Karen and my little nephew, Emil in Bangkok airport to fly to Trat to catch some beach, sun and family time in Koh Chang. It was almost surreal to finally see some of my danish family there. In an airport. In Bangkok. We had dreamed of that moment ever since we left Denmark back in July. And then, just like that, it was reality.

Abby had been VERY excited to see her uncle, auntie and cousin

and she loved every minute spent with them.

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Us going to Koh Chang was actually a very last minute decision. We had originally planned to go to Koh Phangang and Koh Samui together. However, the weather forecast for that particular area of Thailand was horrible so instead of 9 days with torrential rain we opted for sun and went to Koh Chang and we did not regret our decision (not until our very last day of the trip – read more about that in episode 2).

The 9 days we spent in Koh Chang were very relaxing and it was definitely on the children’s terms.

We spent many, many, many hours in the pool. Many hours at the beach. Quite a lot of hours in restaurants. And then we also went on a boat trip where we got to snorkel, fish and see some hungry monkeys. We even took the girls on a little trek into the jungle to swim at a water hole at a waterfall. Abby was a little trooper on that trip. She walked all the way back and forth herself (well, I might have bribed her with ice cream on the way back…) and she absolutely loved it.

Actually, one little incident that was anything but relaxing happened on the boat trip we were on. We stopped at an island for 45 minutes where the adults could snorkel and the kids could swim in the crystal clear water. It was beautiful. And then we got one of our biggest scares as parents so far. At least I did. Josh did not realize what happened until afterwards.

Josh took Abby out on the deep(er) water. She had her doughnut (blow up ring) with her, but no floaties. Then he left her to go snorkelling. I was in the shallow water with Billie as I suddenly heard a faint sound in the background. Not really a cry for help. Just some weird bubbble-babble. I turned around and saw Abby’s doughnut float around empty. Then I saw a young man running into the water from the beach – then I saw what he was running towards. Abby! Her little face was bobbing in and out of the water, she was trying to call for help, but the sound got caught in the water. With Billie in my hands I ran towards her. The young man got to her first. Seconds later I had her in my arms. My heart was pumping as I realized how serious it actually had been.

‘Mummy, I tried to swim, but I just couldn’t breath’

It could have gone so terribly wrong. It was a matter of seconds. Had the young man not seen her, had I not heard her desperate try to call for help. I can’t even handle the thought. Luckily nothing serious happened and Abby was back in the water in no time.

After that little (major!) scare there was not much serious action going down. Thank god! Back to breakfast time, pool time, lunch time, ice cream time, beach time, drinks time, dinner time, repeat…As it should be.

Unfortunately my brother got sick 5 days into the trip so the last days we did not see much of him. Luckily, he made it back out of his sick-bed on the last day so we managed to have a nice last day and evening together before we had to part ways the next day. That meant a lot and we cannot thank him and his family enough for giving us this experience with them. We loved every minute of it!

It was quite emotional to say goodbye to the three of them as we headed off to new adventures in Koh Samui and Koh Tao and they headed back home to Denmark. Hopefully we will see them again soon – when summer hits Denmark in June/july.

A couple of recommendations and tips from me to you:

I can most definitely recommend families to travel to Koh Chang as the beaches there are very child friendly, the people are friendly and helpful, the vibe is very relaxed but the island is still big enough to offer a bit of everything – plenty of restaurants and bars, Thai street food and market stalls, a handfull of towns/villages, several beaches, jungle, waterfalls, trekking and of course, boat trips with snorkelling/diving – and the prices are fair E.g. it was a lot cheaper to take a taxi in Koh Chang than it was in Koh Tao and Koh Samui, which is worth considering if you don’t wish to ride a scooter with small children, but still wish to experience more than your resort’s beach, pool and restaurant.

Potentially you can travel on to Koh Mak and Koh Kood. We did not do this, as we had already made other plans, but we heard a LOT of good especially about Koh Kood and looking back we would have skipped going to Koh Samui and Koh Tao and gone to Koh Mak and Koh Kood instead. We will do that next time, if a next time ever comes up 🙂

Also, if you have small children that use swimming nappies/diapers when swimming, I will recommend bringing enough from home. We could not find any swimming nappies/diapers anywhere and we looked in supermarkets, pharmacies etc. They might have them somewhere, but if so they are not easy to get your hands on.

NEXT STOP KOH SAMUI VIA BANGKOK

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…episode 2 coming soon 🙂