We are happy to introduce Italian Germano Brancatisano, an Italian expat in the Netherlands. Germano and his Dutch wife are the creators of Baby-lingual, an exciting new concept of book for multilingual children. We are sure many of you will love to discover it 🙂 Thank you Germano for sharing your story.
Hi Germano welcome to Expatclic. Let’s go the other way around for this interview and instead of starting from you, let’s talk about Baby-lingual!
It was spring of 2018…well, actually it was autumn, as we were spending a 6-week sabbatical Down Under.
We had decided to move from Germany, where our older daughter had been born 10 months earlier, to the Netherlands and we took those weeks off to spend some quality and family time with the three of us.
And that’s where the idea hit us.
Since the day our Isabella was born we have been applying the OPOL (One-Parent-One-Language) method to raise her bilingual. It was clear from very early on that our girl was becoming very attracted to books (yes, the ones actually made of cardboard and paper) and so her bookshelf started to get populated by all sorts of titles. Most of them in Dutch (my wife’s native language) and some in my father tongue, Italian.
We had looked for bilingual books, as well, from different sources; but we could not find any that would combine our two languages.
So, while driving along the Australian Gold Coast in a tiny campervan, it was when we thought: “hey, wait a minute, why don’t we design and develop them ourselves?”
That’s how our unique multi-lingual children’s book concept came about.
So you are at all effects an expat, and in a bicultural couple, too! Where did you and your wife meet? Can you tell us a bit of your story and what took you abroad?
Our story together goes all the way back to the end of the nineties. Would you believe it if I told you that we spent the first year of our relationship as pen friends? We met at the end of April ’99 and the summer of the same year I embarked on my first international adventure, going to Finland to spend a year as an exchange student. I was 16 years old.
It was my first real international exposure and my English was lousy. So you can imagine the funny level of my letters to her. But apparently good enough not to scare her away, haha.
So we spent one year writing to each other back and forth and when I returned to Italy, she came to visit me with her parents.
After that we spent another year in our long-distance relationship, but finally after graduating from high school, she received an Italian-language scholarship and she came and spend a year in Florence and Milan.
When it was time for her to return to the Netherlands to start with Medical school, I decided to move to Holland. That was the summer of 2002.
Although I was the one who studied international business and connected with professionals from all over the world, it has been her career path to make us move more than once; initially within the borders and then at the end of 2013 it took us to Hannover, Germany.
We spent almost 5 years in Germany and then her job made us move back to Holland, where we have been settling down now. Well, at least we believe we are settling down now 🙂
What have been or are the biggest challenges of raising two multilingual and bicultural children?
As mentioned above, we have been applying the OPOL method and we do that very consistently.
One of the biggest challenges for me especially, as I am the one speaking the minority language at home, is to maximize exposure for our children without pushing them too hard.
Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, my family in Italy has not been able yet to meet our almost one-year old daughter. But through regular video calls with family and friends we expose our daughters as much as possible to the Italian language and culture. Furthermore, we have lots of Italian books to read and we sing as many Italian songs as I can remember.And hopefully soon we can spend our holidays in Italy again.
Indeed, Germano. Before we conclude, let’s go back to your Baby-lingual book. Is there anything else you want to share about it? Where can people buy it?
We are excited to see how well our first title ‘My sweet friends‘ has been received by expats families with young children and by those parents anywhere in the world who decide to introduce a new language from early on while raising their kids.
The uniqueness of our concept is the possibility to combine up to four different languages in one book. This is done by applying language stickers to the corresponding illustration on each page. Families can currently choose among twenty-seven languages and more languages will be added soon.
While it is great to share our concept with many other multicultural parents out there and what we call “a fun way to teach and learn two or more languages”, we are humbled to be able to give something back to society. In fact, with our book-for-book initiative, for each book sold, we donate another English or French book to the Read to Grow Foundation. They collect and donate books to projects in developing countries for children who have little or no access at all to literacy.
It is so fulfilling to be able to create a double-win situation; for the children receiving our baby-lingual book and for the children in developing countries to whom we donate a school book.
You can read more about our story and commitment on baby-lingual.com