I read an article about bilingualism this morning and it really spoke to me. I thought I would share it with you since I know that a lot of you are in the same boat. It is honest and true, and written from a parents point of view. Below are only parts of the article. Please click on the title to read the original post.
Also, I found this and many more interesting articles on the Facebook page called “Multillingual Cafe”. Definitely worth looking into!
By Deborah Kolben
Benefits Abound: Kolben hopes her daughter, Mika, will learn to speak Hebrew (not Spanish) with some help from Dad.
The other night, I handed my daughter, Mika, a plate of chicken and carrots for dinner. She glanced at it momentarily before professing snidely, “Mama, this is not delicioso!” The declaration was remarkable for two reasons: The first was that I had made dinner, the second that my 2.5-year-old cracked a joke. Her hero, Dora the Explorer, calls everything she eats “delicioso” and everything she does “excelente”; the piece of schnitzel I made was clearly neither. Another amazing thing about this was that my daughter used a word in Spanish — correctly. Granted, we’re not raising her to speak Spanish. We are hoping for Hebrew.
When Mika was born, my husband and I decided that we wanted her to be bilingual. My husband’s parents are Israeli immigrants, and he was born in this country shortly after they arrived. Until he went to school, Hebrew was his only language. (My Hebrew is limited to what I learned in Hebrew school, which, unfortunately, wasn’t much.)
And so, starting when Mika was just a few months old, before she could understand even a word, he spoke to her almost entirely in Hebrew. He sang her quiet lullabies at night. I was Mama; he was Aba (Father). Mika’s first word was or (light).
But as she got older, the Hebrew thing got harder. Mika’s baby sitters spoke English. Her mama spoke English. Aba soon felt like he was facing an impossible task. The more English that Mika understood, the harder it became to speak to her in any other language. My husband, who works long hours, had so little time with Mika that when he was with her he wanted her to understand him.
So slowly we began to justify not speaking to Mika in Hebrew. We came up with 100 excuses and 100 ways to rationalize that it wasn’t just laziness.
We knew a woman in the neighborhood who spoke to her daughter exclusively in Estonian. I should have been sensitive to this, but honestly, she was hard to be around. At times I wanted to turn to her and say, “Would it kill you to speak English when there are other people around?”
“I think the hardest part about raising a bilingual child who prefers the ‘other’ language is that it makes me feel like I’m losing an emotional connection to them,” Tuttle-Singer said. “Since so much is conveyed through language, when I feel like we aren’t able to communicate freely in my native language, it makes me feel a stunning disconnect.”
Deborah Kolben is the editor of Kveller.com. She has written for The New York Times, the Financial Times, the New York Daily News and the New York Post.