Thursday, 21 June 2012

To speak or not to speak

Finally we had the home visit from the speech therapist. She felt more positive this time around since Number One Son was not grumpy after having woken up from his nap but was happily taking eye contact and bubbling away in his own special toddler language. Nevertheless, I was left unsure about her advice since basically the first thing she said was that Number One Son finds words in different languages difficult and I should do more speaking in English in order to avoid making him confused and undermine the interaction he has in English in the nursery. When asking about his ‘baby talk’, I said that the intonation do not sound that of Finnish and volunteered to show her a bit of a Finnish-voiced DVD in order to give her a sample. She declined and was joking that she has enough to do with just English. Since she is advising a lot of parents with English as a second language and mixed bilingual families, I found this lack of interest in understanding how different the language sounds her customer hears at home alongside English puzzling and slightly alarming. How can I trust the validity of her advice when it is served on the basis of one viewing and she shows no interest in the first language? He statement sounded more like a sweeping general opinion than advice based on evidence.

It is clear that Number One Son has chosen English as his language of communication even if he says ‘No’ in plain Finnish at suitable moments. It is a positive development that he interacts more verbally and sometimes I can catch clear sentences. Like one day this week he said ‘How are you?’ to a friendly cat when we went for a short walk in a nearby residential estate. He understands my Finnish sentences most of the time – or at least part of the time. He is also happy to watch Incredibles or Shrek2 in either language. Naturally, I have to support his wording when he says ‘car’ or ‘more’. This has to happen in English but I do not want to drop Finnish chat altogether or not saying the same things in Finnish in order to underline bilingual situation in our family. After all, I want to support the development of his spoken English and widen his vocabulary but offer Finnish stimulation and an opportunity to maintain some level of Finnish understanding in the future.

Luckily, we had a play date with Number One Finnish Girl Friend recently and the Finnish midsummer celebrations are just around the corner. This means that Number One Son will hear other people speaking Finnish – and other Finnish children chatting in English. Apparently, there will also be two new male toddler arrivals from Finland so there will be truly Finnish-speaking boys available in the future for play dates. In addition, now when the potty training is almost done, we can start playing with memory games and naming different animals, colours and objects in children’s books In English and Finnish on a more regular basis. If only he wanted to take part into these educational activities all the time. He does not necessarily respond in a way he is supposed to.

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