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Antonio Sabàto, Jr.: I Want My Kids to Know Italian

08/30/2011 at 04:00 PM ET
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Antonio Sabàto, Jr. will make sure his newest bambino, 3-month-old Antonio III, knows his Italian roots — and the language!

“I’m going to speak to him only in Italian,” Sabàto, 39, told PEOPLE Saturday at The Lion King 3D premiere in Hollywood. “I want this one to speak fluently.”

The Rome native reads exclusively Italian books to his son (whose mother is girlfriend Cheryl Moana Marie) and only uses English for lullabies and Barney songs.

Daughter Mina Bree, 9 — who accompanied Sabàto to the event — and son Jack, 17, are also avid students of their father’s Italian lessons.

All three kids have dual citizenship, and Sabàto says he’s eager to get them back to his home country.

“We’re going to go back to Italy very soon,” he shares.

– Lauren Hockenson with reporting by Vanessa Diaz

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Showing 49 comments

Sarah K. on

Oh no, he’s holding his child, can’t she walk?!! Just kidding – very cute picture! It’s great he’s teaching the kids Italian.

Sarah S. on

My husband spoke to our kids in his native language since their births. Trust me, they don’t get confused being bilingual if taught at a young age–good for Antonio!

Vanessa on

I spoke both English and my parent’s language up until the time I went to pre-school. I think it’s great to learn a language at such a young age because kids tend to absorb more in their early years.

Juliette on

Its true they will pick up english very quickly after leraning Italian first and will be so proud they know their ancestors language

ann on

Bravo Antonio! Be proud of being Italian and of your beautiful family. It is a wonderful thing when you know another language, especially a romance language such as Italian. We can tell you are a great father, husband and son. Buona Fortuna!

e on

Very cool! My grandmother was Romanian and German but refused to speak anything but English after coming to the US during WWII. My mom always wished she was able to learn her mother’s native tongue in the house. Way to go!

Carli on

Teaching them Italian is fantastic! It’s amazing how many more opportunities are made available to you when you are bilingual. It’s ashame though with so much evidence and facts regarding teaching languages to children early on, education in the US still does not introduce foreign language to elementary school-aged kids. It’s usually not until middle or high school (if at all) that foreign language opportunities become available, and by that time students are long past the age where it would be easier to learn another language. The US is wayyyyy behind other countries’ in this instance.

B.J. on

Awesome. My German great-great-grandparents stopped speaking the language and it’s sad because not one of us knows German now.

Also, Mina is a cool name :)

alicejane on

Good for him! It’s awesome that his kids are dual citizens and are learning Italian. I live in Canada and the vast majority of schools here offer both English and French immersion, and I wish so much that my parents had either put me in French immersion right in elementary, or that I had chosen to start it in grade 6. I still hope to learn French or another language someday…

Mel on

My mom is Italian, and my sis and I grew up speaking Italian and English at home. Have to say, it was a huge help when I wanted to learn languages later, and it was an even bigger help on the SAT’s because I knew the roots of Latin-based words! Kids’ minds are like sponges when they’re little, it’s such a great opportunity to build up their knowledge base and give them an incredible educational advantage.

Bancie1031 on

Wow all 3 of his children are really spaced out …. what 8 years between each of them ….

meme on

He is gorgeous!!!

Shea on

I love how what ever is behind them makes it look like his little girl has a halo…LOL

I think it’s awesome he wants them to be bi-lingual. I am part Mexican and I have always been upset that my Grandmother didn’t teach my mother and her siblings to speak Spanish, so my siblings, cousins and I were not taught. I have learned to speak on my own from living where most of my friends spoke and also from school, but I wsish I was completely fluent.

Lyoness on

This is great. I wish I were bilingual. I used to have a friend who was half-German. Her family was Air Force but she grew up in Germany with her mom. I remember running into her and she’d had a little boy and said she wasn’t going to teach him German… For the life of me, I’ll never know why. I hope and pray she changed her mind.

Hea on

It’s great to be bilingual. Good for Antonio to be able to give them that gift and great for his kids!

showbizmom on

I love when I read and see this. My husband is Korean and he speaks Korean to our girl. I’m currently able to have a simple conversation in Korean,but I’m Hell bent on getting better so I’ll know when my girls are talking about me! Right now the rule is around mommy simple Korean because I can’t understand full conversations.

Mia on

Well 8 years between when he has 3 kids with 3 different women–not married to any of them.

Jenna on

RE; Carli

where i live foreign languages are introduced in pre-school, the latest 1st or second grade.

Hea on

Mia – So? Isn’t it only natural to be hopeful and even great to not give up on the chance of finding true love and happiness?

Mel on

Thats great. Kids are like little sponges, they soak up everything and quickly too.

My mom is Italian and my dad is Guyanese/Trinidadian. My grandmother only spoke to us in Italian. Today, I’m so thankful for this. I would love nothing more than to pass that onto my kiddies (whenever they’re here lol).

Jess on

She is adorable!!! What a great smile, but then looks run in the family. I think its great that the kids are learning Italian, I wish my family had taught me French as a little one, maybe I’d have had better luck learning/retaining in school.

em on

Hea – Whenever Mia posts it seems like it’s all about marriage/why celebrities aren’t married/why they should be married. She doesn’t seem to see past that.

Shawna on

I am in Ontario and in my kids school they teach French starting in Kindergarten. My 8 year old is already getting quite fluent.

Jillian on

Em, Glad I am not the only one that notices that about Mia’s posts.

Hea on

em – I guess that’s why I haven’t noticed her before then. :) I tend to scroll past such comments but my eyes got stuck on this one here.

Sarah Beth on

Awesome. I have a coworker who’s Polish who refuses to teach her boys Polish; it’s so sad, they can’t talk to their cousins or grandparents when they go visit. I really don’t know what her reasoning is.

On the other hand, I have another coworker whose little girls speak FOUR languages at ages 3 and 4 – her native tongue, her husband’s native tongue, French (which is the language she speaks to her husband, as they met in an African country, I forget which, where French rather than English is the “bridge” language) and English. She speaks to them in her language, their dad in his, when the whole family is together they speak French, and at school they speak English. Pretty amazing.

Tee on

I think it’s wonderful that Antonio is teaching his children Italian! They will grow up fluent in two languages and that is such an amazing gift he’s giving them!

Missy on

Bravisimo, Antonio! When I grew up, my dad who is first generation American refused to teach me Italian, same for him with his mother. I think it was an old way of thinking, coming from Ellis Island and starting off fresh as an American. I had to learn a lot of it on my own. I now make sure and teach my kids a little so they can learn the heritage and our beautiful language.

He seems like a great dad, and a romantic. Happy for him!

Mia on

Whether I’m strong about my opinion of commitment + the aspect of marriage is irrelevant-if you don’t agree–then you don’t agree with me. It’s not necessary to call out my post.

My point is-It’s more common for people to have their kids far apart in age if the children have a different set of parents-vs.-less common if it is the same parents.

And Yes-the fact he’s never been married to any of the 3 women he has kids with-that obviously says something about the level of commitment…it doesn’t make any sense to me–why have kids with somebody, but not want to marry them? I’m all for finding love/true + last love-that includes marriage.

Sarah K. on

Mia, I respect your opinion, but when you put your opinion out there you have to expect that other people will call it out. Part of free speech and expressing your opinion is that other people get to respond. You may not think it’s necessary to call out your post, but you put your opinions out there in a public forum. If you don’t want people to call you out, maybe you shouldn’t post?

Hea on

Mia – Has he ever said that HE didn’t want to get married? You can be fully committed without a piece of paper, you know. And sadly it doesn’t always work out, paper or no paper.

Dee on

I have a lot of friends and family who taught their kids their native tongues first and then exposed them to English as a second language, I think that is the smart way to do it.

Bravo Antonio, I think it is awesome when kids grow up bilingual. The advantages of being bilingual here in Canada goes a long way especially when it comes to looking for a job.

Employers are more inclinded to hire a bilingual person as opposed to an Anglophone and hey, they get paid better in some cases.

Natalie on

He was married to his daughter’s mom, I think. And Virginia Madsen dumped him….so, I don’t think that he didn’t try to make his past relationships work….

Good for him! on

My bf’s Dad was from Puerto Rico, but his English speaking mother wouldn’t allow him to teach it to his kids (this was 40 years ago). What a shame, Spanish would be a definite plus to know. Good for Antonio for teaching his kids another language!

Lori on

I couldn’t understand a word that my Great Grandfather said…his accent was thick.

NeeNee on

I happen to feel the same as MIA…what ever happened to getting married and THEN making babies…I guess lil bastard children are becoming the “norm” now a days…no freaking morals, everyone going around making babies left and right with no thought to the stigma that they get stuck with.

NeeNee on

Don’t fret Mia, the ones that are jumping all over you about having better morals than them are just lil bastard making whores like Antonio…something I’m sure they are all very proud of till their kids start asking questions later on. i agree with you and you have every right to your opinion without the low class breeders out there making fools out of themselves with ignorant attacks on you.

Margui on

Antonio Sabato is right. Teaching your kids about their heritage (that’s include language) is so important. Becoming bilingual has many advantages, your brain works twice by knowing more than one language. I will teach my future kid my native language: Spanish and also my American husband can also learn, too. :)

Cinder Lou on

I’ll just stick to the topic here and say it’s great that Antonio wants his kids to be bilingual and have a firsthand knowledge of their roots. One’s life is so much richer if you have more than just a general idea of where you came from.

Kim on

This man is gorgeous. One of the sexiest men on the planet. Hubba Hubba!

nick on

i think its wonderful that he is teaching his children his native language. my husband and i have already agreed that when we have children i will speak to them in english only, he will speak to them in his local dialect and they will pick up mandarin in school. so hopefully our children will all be trilingiual. i think its great!

Boricua on

I am Italian,Puerto Rican, Mexican American. I can speak Spanish and English but I never got the chance to learn Italian. Italian is so much like Spanish I just wish I had the chance to learn the language. My Grandmother was from Puerto Rico and my grandfather was from Sicily. Hats off to you Antonio.

Liz on

He should also ensure that the children are very educated in their mother’s heritage. It’s not all about him and Italian! The kids are American anyway.

MARIA on

Primo, Antonio bravo per sono molta contenta di sapere che sei sempre molto attacato a i tuoi origine. I’m Candadian born to Italian parents & we were only spoken to in Italian in our household. Went to English school and being from Mtl our English school taught French so I’m trilingual and yes to everyone’s comments, children are like sponges they pick up languages very easily at a young age & NO it does not confuse them.

Secondoy Mia- yes you are entitled to your opinions as we are ours. It’s an entertainment site if you want to go get all conservative find one where your point will be valid!

ROLYAT on

He’s still looking good enough to lick. Mmmmmm……..Mmmmmmmm

kim on

Culture is embedded in the language so it’s great he’s teaching his kids Italian. It keeps the kids in touch with their Italian side and will give them a career advantage someday.

Shannon on

So sweet that he picked her up for this photo. So funny that mothers feel the need to comment she’s too old.

Jillian on

NeeNee
One can be married and not have morals. There is no correlation. A person either has them or they don’t. You clearly are an ignorant person lacking something. You are trying to be a bad ass and it’s just not working.

The Keogh Family on

Then he should start by spelling his surname correctly, without the accent on the second A…there’s no accents in the middle of words in Italian…

Having said that, it’s great that he wants his kids to be bilingual, it’s an awesome gift for kids! My kids are trilingual: English (dad is american), Italian (I’m Italian) and Chinese (we live in Beijing)…so many advantages! And it’s not gonna look bad on their college application!

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