From the diary of a bilingual mother, part 17

by | May 25, 2016 | Challenges, Family life | 0 comments

From the diary of a bilingual mother

Follow the joys and challenges of our fictional bilingual mother and her multilingual family with hubby, 6-year-old son S and 3-year-old daughter D.


Only three months to go and we will be a family of five – I am so happy we went for a bigger house when we moved, otherwise we would be faced with another search for a suitable home! My course at the university is finished, with only the exam papers to mark, so I am looking forward to have more time with the kiddos until the little one arrives. I am so glad I have this time because S is so eager to learn to write in both his home languages that both hubby and I have been spending many hours a week with him. It all took off when he received the first letter from my nephew, his cousin, and they have been exchanging letters ever since. Inspired by this he also wanted to find someone to write with in daddy’s language – so now the grandparents’ neighbour’s son, who he plays with every time we visit, is his newest pen pal. I hope his enthusiasm with writing continues!


What a lovely son we have – and what lovely teachers he has. They had been learning about helping others, and when we arrived home after school and I said that I needed to rest for a while, he comes up to me and asks: “Mummy, what can I do to help you?” His question brought a tear to my eye (yes, I know, hormones!) and after my initial request of a glass of water he wanted to know what else he could do. It may be a bit sneaky, but what I did was to ask him if he could help me with speaking our language to D. “How would that help you, mummy?” he asked. It hadn’t even occurred to me to explain my side of the situation to him – yes, I had discussed the language choice with him before and wished he would not use the community language so often with his sister, but I had never spoken about how it would help me! When I explained, he simply said “alright, then” and continued “I might as well do that, since I will be reading the dinosaur books to my little brother” (he is convinced the baby will be a boy – we have chosen not to know in advance).

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With me staying at home with the kids for the foreseeable future, I am feeling fairly confident with being able to keep my language going with the kids. However, we now have to think about ensuring more exposure for daddy’s language for them. Hubby and I discussed this last night and he is, rightly so, worried that while S and D (and the baby) will most likely get confident in my language, it may be an altogether different scenario for his language. S will probably be fine, as he knew the language really well when we moved and seems to have maintained his skills really well. D on the other hand did not speak it before we arrived, so hubby is now her only source of exposure to the language. We really need to find ways of the kids interacting more in the language. Something to think (and do something) about!


How time flies – sweet little D is three today! As a surprise to her, hubby’s parents came to stay for a long weekend and she has enjoyed every minute with granny and gramps. I noticed that she is mixing her languages a lot less when she is with them – it is as if she would realise that they do not necessarily understand all the words, so sometimes she stops mid-sentence and runs to her brother (not me or hubby) and asks him for the right word. I think she may be under the impression that S is the only one who can translate from the “nursery” language to “daddy’s” language, as he is the only one that occasionally speaks the language to her. It is so adorable watching her make the effort, and granny and gramps are delighted.

Want to know what happened to the family before? You can read previous entries via these links:
Part 1  Part 2  Part 3  Part 4  Part 5  Part 6  Part 7  Part 8 Part 9 Part 10 Part 11 Part 12 Part 13 Part 14 Part 15
Part 16

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