Interracial Dialogue: What language should we teach our kids?

 

If you’re in an interrace/interethnic relationship, chances are you speak more than one language. If you are planning to have children or already have them, what language(s) do you currently teach them or plan on teaching them? Most parents are hung up on the fact that their children haven’t mastered one language well enough to teach them another. It’s so easy to overlook the fact that children have the capacity to learn more than one language when they’re little.

The ability to master a language is a lot easier when you’re younger. As tasking as it seems to teach your children several languages, the reward pays off in the end. Living in the United States, a country with a large base of diverse cultures and languages, it ought to be a norm privilege to be bilingual.

Of all the ethnic groups in the United States, the Hispanics, Chinese and Indians are the ones who have held on strongly to both their language and culture. It is almost impossible to come across a Hispanic, Chinese or Indian child who doesn’t speak their native language fluently. This may have something to do with the fact that most of these parents aren’t fluent in the English language or the fact that they cherish their language/culture more.

A lot of immigrants feel they are doing their children injustice by teaching them their native tongue as this distort their ability to speak the English language fluently. The real injustice is not exposing your children to your language. Speak it to them often and request them to speak it back to you no matter how imperfect they sound.

You can only perfect your ability to speak a language fluently if you speak it often. Make an effort today to teach your children your native language or other language you speak. It will not affect their ability to speak English. Remember if they live in an English speaking country, they will automatically speak the English language by default.

Garcelle Beauvais, Haitian actress and mother to twin biracial boys had this to say:

“They know some [Creole]. Oliver knows some. Jaid is much more interested in learning. Jaxson has no interest. He only wants to play. They know certain words. Sometimes, they’ll do something; I’ll get frustrated. I start speaking Creole. I’ll crack them up, and they’ll know what I mean.”

 “I can’t move to Haiti because of my kids, because of my divorce. They have to be close to their dad. That’s not even—I can’t entertain that. Plus my career is in the United States. Maybe someday. Maybe I’ll start an organization. But my life is here. My kids are here,” explained the actress. Read more here...

My experience:

The very first language I spoke was German. Funny enough, because my parents barely spoke German at the time. But being in Kindergarten (Kindergarten is what we call daycare in Austria and Germany) and having Austrian godparents meant me being very fluent in German at the time. I learnt English around the age of 5 and didn’t properly master it until I went to school in London.

I taught myself Yoruba at the age of 16 by watching Yoruba movies with subtitles and forcing myself to speak it as bad as it sounded until I mastered the language. I now proudly speak three (3) languages and wish I spoke more but three is not a bad start. Children have the ability to learn as many languages as possible. The earlier you expose them to different languages the quicker they become pros.

I was surprised to see my son pick up Yoruba at the age of two (2) even though I wasn’t making a conscious effort of teaching him. He was repeating words he heard me speak and it reminded me that I needed to start teaching him more languages; he was capable of speaking more than one.

Image: (Almightydad)

Check out this question and answer session on bilingualism  on the Scholastic website. It provides some good resource if you still have questions.

The New York Times says:

“SPEAKING two languages rather than just one has obvious practical benefits in an increasingly globalized world. But in recent years, scientists have begun to show that the advantages of bilingualism are even more fundamental than being able to converse with a wider range of people.

Being bilingual, it turns out, makes you smarter. It can have a profound effect on your brain, improving cognitive skills not related to language and even shielding against dementia in old age.” Read more here.

Do your children the favor of exposing them to your language and culture. What you teach your children now will help determine what they become as adults! I hope article is helpful to you as you raise your children.

 

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3 thoughts on “Interracial Dialogue: What language should we teach our kids?

  1. We’re teaching our kids a few languages. I speak French and Naskapi (I was raised quadlingual) and our babysitter has agreed to tutor them in Spanish. It’s not easy to teach them as it was for me growing up, because I was immersed in the languages, and with my wife not being able to speak the languages I do, it’s much harder to teach them.

  2. Thanks for your comment Ben. Being multilingual is a blessing. I can relate to how difficult it is learning a language especially if you don’t live in the country of origin, however don’t give up on trying. Your kids will thank you for it later.

  3. Pingback: Masteral and Other Filipino “Concoctions” | Stories of My Wandering Feet (& Mind)

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