Thursday, 22 November 2012

Chosen his language

The interesting moment in any bilingual family rises when the child has clearly chosen his or hers language. Our Number One Son has chosen his father’s language, English. This was clear already earlier when he ignored the simple word pairs I tried to say in Finnish, and repeated them when I did repeat them in English. Now he has finally started to speak more – even fully sentences like ‘I want to wee’ – this is more noticeable

After putting all the effort in – even before the birth when I read a Moomin book to my bump – I feel a bit short-changed. However, I recognize that the children do have a right to choose their language. After all, English is the language he shares with his friends and his key worker and other nursery assistants. He will also be taught in English.

Now I have to adapt to the situation where I try to keep up passive, secondary language skills. I think it is important for Number One Son to grow up in an environment where he gets used to other languages and be in situations where he does not understand the others. This is often the experience of a Finn abroad, but comes as a shock to many English and Americans. It is so easy to be lulled in a fully monolingual environment, where the foreigners can most of the time fluently one’s language and converse in English in their company. For a Finn learning languages is a natural part of reaching to other people abroad. In England learning languages is not a norm. This attitude was shown even by our speech therapist.

If not anything else, our son is not scared by loud, rather self-confident Finnish mothers and fathers chatting with each other in Finnish. He can also see lovely Swedish and Norwegian cartoons from Finnish DVDs and ‘expand his horizons’.

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