lego duplo aeroplane going on holidays to the home country

One sleep to the summer holiday in Portugal

pastel_de_nata76 Bilingualism, Blog, Family, Life, Portuguese, Travel 2 Comments


Only one sleep until our summer holiday in Portugal. I’m so excited! I’m not going to lie, the last few months have been challenging on many levels and the language learning has not been anywhere near what I would like it to be.

I have great hopes for this holiday and you can expect to hear more about how we’re getting on in Portugal in the next 4 weeks. Today I’m writing about a couple of things that may be useful to other parents aiming to raise bilingual children.

Top thing to do for your bilingual children

Firstly, a reminder that visiting the home country, or a country with the target language is one of the best things you can do to advance language learning. Visiting the home country can also help immensely with exposure to the culture, building a connection and developing a sense of identity and belonging.


Sophia on a horse ride around Belem in Lisbon

So, if you’re not planning to visit this summer, look again and consider whether it’s possible – check latest flight deals here. (this is an affiliate link)

If a summer trip is not possible, look at your diary right now and pencil in a date for the next trip. Talk to you partner and employer and try your hardest to make it happen. Sometimes I look back and think about the silly excuses I had not to visit more in the first years. I now realise the difference it can make but unfortunately, I am limited by school term dates.

Why the summer is the best time to visit home

Mainly for two reasons:

  1. If you have school-age children, you get a longer period to go, and therefore a bigger immersion
  2. Most people are probably going on holiday anyway and it can be dull for the kids to stay behind, and difficult for parents to entertain them for such a long period of time (unless you put them in summer camps – and please do bear in mind there is such a thing as language summer camps, which may be worth considering, especially if you can’t take the time off work and can afford to send your children to one)
  3. Depending on the destination, the summer holidays often coincide with lovely weather and an opportunity to do plenty of exploring outdoors

sunset seaside view in Lisbon

We went to Portugal last December for 2,5 weeks.  It was ok, but the fact that it was Christmas time had a strange effect on the girls. I guess there were a number of factors:

  • We were rushing around visiting people, and having Christmas dos in people’s houses they never met or don’t remember
  • There were a lot of us on Christmas eve and it’s tradition in Portugal to stay late and wait for father Christmas – very different from our traditions in the UK and the girls were extremely tired on the  night
  • Because we were limited with what we could take and bring back, the presents may not have been as spectacular as otherwise.
  • Their daddy was taken ill to the hospital just before he was due to fly and couldn’t travel to meet us there so we ended up spending Christmas and the whole holiday without him.

It was all a bit too much.

Now, with 4 weeks ahead of us, great weather and the giant sand and water play that beaches offer only 20 minutes from where we’re staying, I expect an even bigger impact.

The girls playing on the beach in December

Crucially, going for a longer period enables the language learning to develop even further – there is an accumulative effect in immersion and confidence. It can take a few days to settle in, but usually, after 3 days the children blend in very well.

Reindeer craft

I know of some cases where the children refuse to speak the language all year round but when they visit the parent’s home country they surprise everyone by speaking very well and getting well into it. When put in that situation, especially if no one speaks (because they can’t or refuse to) the child’s majority language, they just get into it.

See this post I wrote about the effect that traveling to the home country can have 

So if you haven’t been home for a while, I urge you, book a trip asap

Making special plans

Don’t forget to make it memorable, especially if home is a long haul flight and difficult to make it happen regularly.

impact on language acquisition - Collage of Christmas trip memories

Last December the Christmas fair was their most memorable moment. Sophia and Amelia loved it:

This time, other than going to the beach as much as possible and exploring out my beloved Lisbon, we have road trip planned and will explore various places, countryside, cities, attractions. I promised them to go to castles and Portugal certainly is no short of those.

Breaking up bad habits

Personally, I find it a great opportunity to break the bad habits we got into recently. Speaking Portuguese where we live is very hard as there are so few people to speak to. We are very sociable and most situations call for English.

Being in Portugal makes it much easier for me as well – it just feels more natural. And I know that after coming back it will be easier for us all to keep it up.

Traveling alone with small children?

When I visited Portugal last December and traveled alone with the girls for the first time which was not very nice. Read about that experience here

I am traveling alone with the girls again. I hope I’m better prepared this time. I took the suggestion of more seasoned traveling bilingual parents and dispatched the luggage in advance.

Trying to take the luggage whilst looking after too bouncy children would be too painful and stressful, so I dispatched it via DPD which cost a fraction of the price anyway.

Packing list

I love lists. Scrap that. I cannot function without lists!

So I created an exhaustive packing list and I would like to share it with you. The question is: would you like it separate (e.g. winter time trip, summer time, etc), or all in one and you cross what you don’t need? Let me know in the comments below or on the Facebook page

That’s it for today  – I must go and get ready for tomorrow. I hear there is a giant sweet and juicy watermelon waiting for us at Vovo’s house. I can’t wait!

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