Photo Credit: Life & Lemons

La mia amica Lonielle De Haven, che è appassionata di tutte le cose italiane e che scrive il blog “Life and Lemons,” sta crescendo i suoi figli americani per parlare sia inglese che italiano. Oggi si unisce per condividere con noi come sta andando il suo esperimento di lingua!

My friend Lonielle De Haven who is passionate about all things Italian and who writes the blog “Life, Lemons Italy” is raising her American kids—Cash and Cosette— to speak both English and Italian. She joins us today to share with us how her language experiment is progressing!

Visit Lonielle’s blog for an enticing window onto Italy!
On the Life Lemons Italy site, she shares her lovely photography,
personal insights about Italy as well as her Italian recipes.

Our Italian Language Experiment

Cash and Cosette Learn Italian!

Photo Credit: Life & Lemons

How Italian cartoons helped turn my
kids into little Italian speakers!

Where it started – When my son was a baby I wanted more then anything to teach him Italian but I didn’t have many options open to me and I was’t far enough along in my own language learning to teach him the way I wanted…so I needed to get a little creative. I had the idea that if he could hear Italian everyday that he would absorb the way the language sounded and was structured. I also wanted him to visually see what was going on so there would be more understanding of the situation in front of him. Kind of like the way we learn in real life…listening to and observing everything around us. So, that was the plan, and that was what we did after I finally had the idea to look for cartoons in Italian on YouTube. There wasn’t much to choose from but I found a wonderful cartoon called Pocoyo and it was perfect for us. It was where we were going to start…we watched and listened everyday. I figured that along with the listening and watching there should be interaction between us using the language as well, so I spoke with him at the level I could. If I knew how to say it, I said it, and it grew from there. With this new passion to teach and speak with him I was pleasantly surprised with my own language learning as well. I was able to learn and retain the information easier because I was using it daily and I had a goal. It just kept growing and changing from there and everyday we became a little more Italian.

Photo Credit: Life & Lemons

Where we are now – It has been a million memories and maybe a million words since we started learning Italian together. My son is 8 and I have a 3 year old daughter as well. She joined our language learning on day one of her life and all 3 of us have continued to learn and speak with each other as much as possible. I can say that this little experiment hasn’t always been perfect or easy, and it has taken dedication to speak, learn and live Italian daily, but witnessing how amazingly well they are doing, and being able to talk to them in Italian is one of the happiest things in my life. We don’t just sit and study a bit of Italian and then go back to our English speaking lives. We live with Italian language as part of our daily lives. If I had let my circumstances get the best of me in the beginning all of this magic may never have happened…but it did., and I’m so very grateful! It goes to show what you can do if you are willing to get a little creative and pretend you are Italian:)

Photo Credit: Life & Lemons

These are things we do and have done
regularly to learn Italian as well as a video of
my kids speaking below….

YouTube – This has always been and still is the main source of our daily learning, listening and maintaining. It is easily accessible and free if you don’t mind a few ads. My kids will usually watch anywhere from 30 min to 2 hours daily. Cartoons are still mostly what they watch but we also watch documentaries, fairy-tales, learning shows, Italian language learning shows, cooking shows (great for learning about the kitchen department), travel videos and vlogs. A couple of the things I like about cartoons are that they are geared towards children and learning (the right ones of course), the speaking and accents are clear and the voices are at a good speed and volume. This makes all the difference in the world when listening and learning a language….especially in the beginning. All of these programs are great learning tools though, and they give you a chance to hear native speakers pronouncing and speaking Italian they way the Italians really do.

Books – We incorporate Italian reading into our lives whenever we can for added repetition as well as learning that isn’t in front of a screen. They are, of course, also a great way to spend quality time together 🙂 I have acquired most of our books from our trips to Italy, but I have also ordered them from,, and ebay. They are great practice for me and my son in the reading department and good practice with the Passato Remoto which you will often see in books but may not hear as much in speaking.

Songs and podcasts – Songs are wonderful for repetition as well as more together time! We learn our canzoni per bambini (kids songs) from YouTube and then we sing in the car and before bed at night. Many songs that we have in English are in Italian too…like Se sei felice (If you’re happy and you know it) and Whisky il rangnetto (The itsy bitsy spider) and so many others….not to mention all the fun and different Italian ones that we don’t have in English. We listen regularly to all sorts of other popular and classic Italian music as well through Amazon music, YouTube and Spotify. I have recently started listening to some podcasts with the kids too and am starting to play them sometimes while we are having lunch or just to have in the background.

Games – I have tried to incorporate learning in wherever I can, for them and for me, and games are the best for random learning and practice. Playing in this way can greatly help to learn and utilize new words…whether it’s counting while trimming fingernails, or looking up some keywords to a board game we are playing and using them. You might not normally learn the words spinner, game piece, turn or other activity-specific words if you didn’t have the intention to.

Phone apps – This is one of the most important things for me. I keep my phone dictionaries and apps as close as possible because I find that if I don’t know a word and I check it and use it right away, that it sticks so much better. I also like it because often my kids will say something that I have never heard before and I need to look it up right away out of curiosity. My favorite dictionary is Word Reference and my favorite translator is Reverso. I like HiNative for asking native Italian speakers how to say something or correct something…this way you can be sure it is right. I also like Google Translate for listening to how something is pronounced when I’m not sure. It is not trustworthy for proper translation though unless you are wanting to translate very basic things or just get an idea of what something an Italian is saying.

Here is a little video Lonielle made of
the kids having a tea party…

MVI_7247[1] – lifelemonsitaly

I think it is wonderful Lonielle is nurturing Italian language learning at home with her children!
Hopefully, it will spark some creative
language learning of your own!

Photo Credit: Life & Lemons

p.s. The picture above is of Cash and Cosette in Venice and the other is of them in a Venetian workshop la forcola. Forcola is Venetian dialect for the typical Venetian rowlock providing a variety of fulcrum positions, each having its own effect on the rower’s oar.

Lonielle writes: This was an incredible experience because the kids asked him questions about his work in Italian and he became a totally different person. At the end of our visit, he gifted us some wood curls from his carving and shared his pomegranate with the kids. I felt like this would have never happened if the kids didn’t speak Italian to him.

Bravi ragazzi! Siete tutti grandi! Non vedo l’ora di avere una conversazione con Cash e Cosette la prossima volta siamo tutti insieme!

You can find a previous guest post by Lonielle
in which she explains her passion for Italy
And here is another post I wrote after having met
Lonielle, Cash, and Cosette in person!

For the kid in all of us! And how to live to be 100.

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