T.G.I.F. Yay! It’s Friday! And, today, I’d like to introduce you to a lovely multilingual family currently living in Iowa, USA. This story served to remind me that raising our children in more than one language requires a “constant and relentless effort” on our part, the parents. It’s not easy! But, most certainly worthwhile.
Be encouraged, friends. Read on!
I am Karen and I grew up in Singapore in a multilingual family and environment. I speak English, Chinese and Cantonese and pick up a little French in college. I felt blessed to be multilingual, to be able to enjoy books, movies, songs, conversations and jokes in many different beautiful languages. My husband is from Iowa, and he speaks English. We live in Iowa with our two boys, Devon (8) & Connor (5).
I know for sure I will raise my kids to love languages, cultures, music (and food!), to open the doors to more opportunities in their lives and to amplify their world experience. There are just some expressions that are unique in certain languages, that can’t be translated. And that’s something special I was able to share with my kids. Oh, and I love that I could hold secret conversations with them too.
Raising bilingual kids is extremely tough when only one parent is at work. It is quite easy to think that your kid doesn’t understand you and end up speaking in English. Hearing stories of the struggles of other bilingual parents makes me want to strive even harder. It became one of the reasons I homeschool my kids.
The challenge of incorporating a different language is to ensure frequent usage. Language is just a form of communication. If one has to constantly think and translate before speaking, he will eventually find it too tedious to pursue.
I try to associate fun activities and memories with our language and culture. My kids would sing songs, listen to stories, watch Korean, Japanese and even Disney cartoons in Chinese. So much so that it shocked them to hear Mickey Mouse speak English for the first time. We would invite our neighbors to go on lantern walks and savor mooncakes during the Mid-autumn festival. We would cook a feast, put up decorations and skype with relatives during Chinese New Year. We also try to make extended trips to Singapore to spend time with family and celebrate various holidays.
Multilingual parenting is a constant and relentless effort. I applaud those who are engaging themselves in this challenge and their stories inspire us too. For us, we hope that when our children leave the house, they will create that environment for themselves. And hopefully they would share that with their friends and eventually, with their children.
Thank you, Karen, for sharing your story!
P.S. Friends, don’t miss this coming Monday’s post! I’ll be interviewing Andrés Salguero, bilingual children’s music superstar! Plus, I’ll be hosting the blog’s first ever giveaway. Happy Weekend!