Czechast: Czech-American couple Maggie and Tom Slepička on raising children in a bicultural family

Maggie, Tom and their two daughters

How do you bring up children in bilingual and bicultural families? On the one hand, it is potentially a great advantage if the kids get this educational and learning impulse and live in two cultures at the same time. On the other hand, it is not easy to balance the influences of the two nationalities or ethnicities.

Maggie,  Tom and their two daughters | Photo: Thomas Slepička

Marriages between Czechs and foreigners like Tom and Maggie have been on the rise for several decades. Maggie Grove Slepičková first visited what was then Czechoslovakia when her father came to Olomouc for a year as a Fulbright Professor in 1989, although she was very little and does not remember much.

But she came back to Brno some 15 years ago, met Tom Slepička and they fell in love. They married after a few years and moved to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in the United States where Maggie grew up and where her parents live.

They have two daughters aged four and seven. When I spoke to Maggie and Tom, I was interested mainly in the challenges and rewards that living in a bicultural family brings about. Do they try to speak to them both in English and Czech? Maggie explains that it is not easy:

Maggie,  Tom and their two daughters | Photo: Thomas Slepička

"Life goes really fast right now. It is difficult to integrate both languages from an everday perspective."

"It's just that they are too little and we are too busy," adds Tom. Inevitably, one of the languages and cultures becomes dominant.

That does not mean, however, that Maggie and Tom are giving up. Their seven-year-old already has dual Czech and American citizenship and they are planning to travel to Czechia more often once the girls are older.

In this episode of Czechast we discuss the challenges as well as the rewards of growing up in a bilingual and bicultural family.

Author: Vít Pohanka
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  • Czechast

    Czechast is a regular RPI podcast about Czech and Moravian culture, history, and economy.