Letter to Santa from a bilingual child

by | Dec 16, 2015 | Being the parent in a multilingual family, Challenges, Family life, Language and bilingualism | 6 comments

Letter to Santa from a bilingual child

Dear Santa,

I hope you and all your elves are well so that you can get everything ready for the big day. I write to you again this year, as I know you read all the letters because I always get at least something from my wish list. I have figured out that you must know a LOT of languages since you are visiting children all across the world, and that’s why I believe that you will understand my wishes better than anybody else. Can you guess?

“Books, comics and DVDs in mummy’s language” I hear you say. Well, actually, my parents and grandparents seem to have that pretty much under control, so I would leave those up to them – you know, I get books, comics and films for birthdays and other occasions, so I am fine.

Because I know you are a bit of a magician – how else would you manage to cover the whole world within less than 24 hours? – I am going to ask for something, which might be a bit trickier for you – but I will only ask for three things, and not one is for me!

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For mum and dad: Patience

I know mum and dad really want me to be fluent in both my languages and use them in a correct way with the right people and so on, but from time to time I forget which language I am talking and who is listening. They certainly seem to have forgotten how it feels to be truly excited about something and just want to tell everyone about it. Sometimes it is almost as if the language I use is more important than what I want to tell them. Also, it does happen that I don’t remember a word in a language so I just use it in the other – they understand, so what’s the big deal? If you could make this gift of patience everlasting, I would be eternally grateful.

For others: Understanding for our language choices

It makes me sad when I hear other people tell my mum that she shouldn’t speak her language with me, and that it is rude to use a different language when others can hear. Why don’t they understand that this is what we always speak to each other? It feels odd to speak the other language with mum (except when I am really excited, of course), and my mum always translates if there is something that others also need know. Why would they be interested in what we are having for dinner anyway? There are many different language variants and some of them are almost impossible to understand, but I have never heard an adult say that someone should stop using his or her dialect. That would be rude, wouldn’t it? We need plenty of understanding, so bring as much as possible, please.

For my teachers: Knowledge about what it means to be bilingual

Just because I know my mum’s language, does not make me an expert in it. I wish my teachers wouldn’t expect me to translate a word just like that … in front of all my mates. Do they know how embarrassing it can be? And why does one teacher think that my other language makes it more difficult for me to learn the language we use at school? Some teachers already have this knowledge, so you only need to bring enough to cover the ones that don’t, you know the ones I mean!

Dear Santa, I have worked hard at school all year and mostly been behaving quite well (it really wasn’t me who broke auntie’s vase, it just lost its balance all of a sudden!) – and you would make me so happy if you did your magic and made my wish list come true!

Travel safely and welcome to our home – see you soon!

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  1. Chris Drew

    Dear Rita,

    you’ve hit the nail on the head with these three things. I have been guilty – and haven’t we all – of a lack of patience when my children replied in the ‘wrong’ language. Guilty as charged. I’m lucky for the second thing, as our ‘minority’ language is English, and so that is seen as ‘acceptable’ or even to be encouraged. But I have friends who didn’t bring up their children bilingually because of what “others might think”. Such a pity, such a waste. Oh the joys of having bilingual (and bicultural) children! What better gift could you offer your child? It provides a unique vision of the world, an openness and understanding of others that is difficult to put into words. And the third Santa gift is the icing on the cake. My daughters do sometimes “suffer” from teachers not understanding this fact, or treating them differently from other children. Other teachers embrace the situation, but there is a fine line to be drawn in this regard. An understanding teacher is worth their weight in gold.

    God jul och gott nytt år to you and your family Rita and to all bilingual parents (and children!) wherever you are.

    • Rita

      Dear Chris,

      thank you so much for your lovely comment! Yes, you are absolutely right – I have also learnt from my mistakes (expecting a response in Swedish) and have had my fair share of people who don’t understand the importance of the language I speak with my children.

      Wishing you and your family a joyful Christmas and fantastic new year of 2016!
      God jul och gott nytt år till hela familjen!

  2. Steve

    And like that, Rita, brings a smile to all her readers. Very nice.

    • Rita

      Aww, thank you, Steve!

  3. Kali

    This is not the letter I expected. I LOVE IT! What a fun and creative way to remember important things about the multilingual family life. Thank you for helping us keep these things in mind in such a tender presentation. 🙂

    • Rita

      Thank you for your sweet comment, Kali! Wishing you and yours a lovely, relaxing Christmas time.



  1. Multilingual Parenting: Top 10 posts of 2015 for parents of bilingual children – multilingual parenting – bilingual children - […] Letter to Santa from a bilingual child – not your usual wish […]

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