Effective Communication for Multilingual Families


Our families are the micro-society where our children communicate their first needs and wants. Multilingual families communicate in a variety of languages (and dialects) which each require particular skills to express ourselves in a way that others understand what we mean. 


©Ute Limacher-Riebold 2020



Especially when we live abroad, our core family becomes the safe haven for our children, and us! A place where we feel "at home", safe, understood and valued for who we are.


In order for open and honest communication to create a healthy atmosphere that allows family members to express their differences as well as love and admiration for one another, we need to find a way to communicate that is understanding, respectfulempathetic and that creates trust.

You have probably experienced that even in monolingual settings it can be difficult to avoid misunderstandings or not jump onto conclusions, make judgments etc.

We all have biases when it comes to certain topics, languages, habits, beliefs, ways things are said and done.

In multilingual families it can easily feel like at the United Nations: we discuss and debate on small things that monolingual and monocultural families wouldn't even consider important. We discuss about what dish to put on the table to celebrate, what routine is best to follow, what habits we prefer to transmit to our children and maintain throughout the years, what words to use (or not use), what phrases are appropriate (or not), what languages to use in certain circumstances, with whom, what registers are important to foster etc..

What seems exciting and enriching from the outside, can cause dispute and attrition on the inside.

©Canva 2023



I offer tailored consultations and trainings for parents and caregivers with a diverse cultural and linguistic background who want to create a harmonious, inclusive, multilingual and multicultural home.


Together, we reflect on each individual's experience and expectation. I help find a common ground on which to build a solid base for the multilingual and multicultural family.

Furthermore, I help gain proficiency at becoming efficient communicators through:

  • acquiring the ability to successfully communicate verbally and non-verbally,
  • behave effectively and appropriately with each other,
  • handle the psychological demands and dynamic outcomes that result from these interactions.   





I help you make sure you can thrive abroad as a S.M.A.R.T. Multilingual Family©




Language and culture are strongly connected. There are many different ways to define culture. The definition that comes the closest to the way I experience and perceive culture is:

a fuzzy set of basic assumptions and values, orientations to life, beliefs, policies, procedures and behavioral conventions that are shared by a group of people, and that influence (but do not determine!) each member's behavior and his/her interpretations of the "meaning" of other people's behavior

(Helen Spencer-Oatey, Culturally Speaking: Culture, Communication and Politeness Theory, 2008)








We all have our individual communication style that can vary across the languages we use and sometimes create confusion for those we live with as they can feel like we "act differently when using one language or the other". Multilinguals don't have multiple personalities, they just are able to express their multiple facets through different languages. and they all have strengths and weaknesses.


In multilingual families we experience that our expectations concerning behaviors, beliefs, traditions and language are not always met.


"We all experience diversity based on our own experiences, assumptions, beliefs, traditions – that's our very own cultural backpack."  

"Being aware of our own communication style helps us understand the one of our interlocutor, and is the first step towards greater mutual understanding."

"It is not only important to understand the other culture, the way things are done, the values and beliefs, we also must find out how to communicate effectively and avoid misunderstandings in the way we interact, talk with each other and write to each other, and our body language, the gestures we use." 

"Being multilingual and multicultural is a great asset to thoroughly understand and accept diverse cultures: their beliefs, values and rules."

"It is like viewing the world through always adapting lenses."

"Only if we understand what we see, we can adapt our communication style in a way to have meaningful and effective conversations."

(Ute Limacher-Riebold PhD)




"Early language exposure is essential to developing a formal language system, but may not be sufficient for communicating effectively."

(Fan, S. P., Liberman, Z., Keysar, B., & Kinzler, K. D. (2015). The Exposure Advantage: Early Exposure to a Multilingual Environment Promotes Effective Communication. Psychological Science26(7), 1090-1097.)


Multilinguals need to learn how to take into account the perspective of the other person, which is not an easy task.




In my consultations and trainings you can discover how:

–  your own communication style is perceived by others

–  your communication style determines how you perceive other peoples' communication

–  your way to communicate changes when you use another language

–  important non-verbal communication is

–  to actively listen

–  to build trust

–  to build rapport

–  to communicate in difficult situations

–  to deal with aggression and criticism

–  to speak effectively 

–  to avoid misunderstandings & more...


– I invite you to read my posts about Intercultural Communication






Some background information about Ute:

Ute is a qualified intercultural communication trainer and while living abroad her whole life, i.e. outside of the passport country of her parents, she has learned the many facets of the host cultures and languages to an extent that she integrated and managed to thrive in all the countries and cultures she lived so far.

She has lived in different countries because of her parent's work, for study, for work, as sole bread winner and as accompanying partner. Her three now young adult children grew up "abroad" too.  

She has worked in international settings in Switzerland, Italy and the Netherlands, and participated/s in online projects worldwide. She tailors her trainings to her audience and adjusts the content to her participants' needs.

Ute has helped thousands of internationals understand and embrace the other culture and language, and accept and embrace diversity and how things are said and done.

In her communication trainings for parents and caregivers she focuses on effective and respectful communication.



What parents say about Ute's support

Ute has helped me and my partner to address some issues we had and that we didn't know were related to our past experience in our countries and with our languages. We are now much more aware of what we say and do impacts also our children...

– Renata C. P. (Swiss (TI) mother or 2, teacher, living in the UK)


We first contacted Ute to help us with our family languages but she suggested that we first focus on our communication. We didn't know what to expect, but were positively surprised about how little changes helped us to have a more relaxed view on everything. We raise our child abroad, without any help and it is very difficult. But with Ute's calm and kind help we feel that we can make it work.

– Coraline K. (mother of 1, CEO, living in Germany) 


Ute ha tantissima esperienza con vivere e crescere figli all'estero! Ci ha accompagnati durante e dopo tre traslochi internazionali e le siamo molto grati del suo aiuto. Ci ha aiutato a concentrarci su quello che era importante al momento, e ha saputo darci consigli utili riguardo a scuole, lingue da scegliere, ed in generale, come gestire una famiglia che cresce all'estero...  

– Raffaella S. (madre di 3 figli nati all'estero, fotografa, US/Canada/Spagna/Germania) 


Wir haben mit Ute unseren Auslandaufenthalt mit unseren 2 Kindern (damals 6 und 10) geplant. Wir hätten an so vieles nicht gedacht! Kinder passen sich nicht "einfach an", sie machen nicht "alles mit". Das haben wir selbst erfahren und dank Ute, konnten wir unseren Kindern helfen. Wir sind gerade zum zweiten Mal in 3 Jahren umgezogen und haben beschlossen, erst mal länger zu bleiben. Zumindest bis unsere Älteste mit der Schule fertig ist. 

– Monika G. (Mutter von 2 Töchtern, Architektin, Schweiz / Spanien / Belgien) 





Start with downloading your free copy of my

10 Tips for Effective Communication in Multilingual Families 

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