Sunday, February 5, 2017

On Bilingualism

Now that I have set my routine and secure some time for more or less regular blogging thanks in part to bullet journaling, I can finally write about something that is dear to my heart: raising a bilingual/multilingual child. I have wanted to write about this topic for a long time, but just couldn't get around to do it for various reasons.

I have always been interested in the process of learning/speaking different languages. I even study the subject for my postgraduate degree. I LOVE reading and talking about anything linguistics (my husband can tell you how many hours I have bored him with this linguistic stuff, haha).

So I had known a thing or two about how to raise a bilingual child even before I had my son . I knew there would be some issues ahead of us but in theory it seemed straightforward enough. I speak the minority language to my son. My husband speaks the community language (English) to him. We could do this.

Of course, just like any other parenting matters, the things that seem straightforward in theory often turn out to be anything but, and raising a bilingual child was no exception for me. I'd like to write about the issues I had faced in the past in a separate post but suffice it to say I'm terrible at this. My 4-year-old son's minority language skill is, I have to say, not as good as his friends of the same age (his English is perfectly fine). But I haven't given up.  Thankfully, where we live now has a Saturday school that teaches in my son's minority language and has been a tremendous help in the past year. And this year I'd like to make more conscious efforts to teach him his minority language. Then I thought one of the ways to make it more conscious is to write about our journey. I have always wanted to write about bilingualism so why not just go ahead and write about it, right?

As a start, here are my 3 personal reasons why I have chosen to raise my son in 2 languages (hopefully more) that can keep me personally accountable to my family's language goals (this prompt was given by Bilingual Avenue podcast episode 152).

  1. To be able to experience his other culture directly without relying on translations: I believe that speaking the language helps people understand the culture at a deeper level, and I want my son to experience this.
  2. To be able to better communicate with his family members: actually my own parents speak good English so probably this is not a strong enough motivation for us but still I think it's better if my son could speak his minority language fluently.
  3. To know that there is a bigger and exciting world out there: even if my son didn't end up speaking his minority language fluently, I think it's valuable for him to learn that people speak different languages and none of them is better or worse than another. 
I think we're in a pretty good position regarding 3. My son tells me excitingly who speaks what language at his school and seems proud that he could "speak" English, Japanese and Spanish :)

What are your 3 reasons? If you're raising a multilingual child or planning to, please let me know in the comment section.

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