Today at More than a Mum, we have another guest post. This post is about languages; bringing up children bilingual and the need (or not) for languages to be taught at school.
I’m bilingual. My mother tongue is not really a useful one, other than when communicating with my family back home. But, I am trying to raise my children (2.5 and 4.5 years-old) using my mother tongue. Both my children were born abroad, and my son was surrounded by the language for the first 3 years of his life. We spoke English at home, but his childminder and everyone around spoke another language and he spoke very little English until we moved here nearly two years ago.
Languages are important to me. I speak two fluently and can get by in two others (the more useful French and German). If I had the time, I would study languages and become as fluent as possible in my two weaker languages. I think teaching my children to speak and think in another language will help their brain development. My husband is convinced that teaching them to play a musical instrument will do the same. It makes us sound like we’re pushy parents, but we’re not. I speak to them in one language (or at least I try) and my husband speaks to them in English. I use the Internet to buy books and DVDs for them in that language. Because I find English easier and we now live in England, my children’s second language is now being pushed out. So, we’re taking them back for two weeks in the summer to help them develop and use that language. So that they see that other people speak it, too!
I thought most parents felt the same. I thought that most parents, given the opportunity, would introduce their children to other cultures and other languages, but I found out recently that it’s not the case. My son’s school had organised an after school club to introduce them to French. It was run by a French woman, who sang songs and played games in French with the children. We signed up, but didn’t get a place as demand for the 15 places far outstripped supply. So, I was moaning about the lack of places one afternoon at pick up with some of the other parents when two parents were quite outspoken that languages were a “waste of time” and “useless”. They felt that “everybody should just learn English”. A third added that Modern Foreign Languages were a waste of time on the curriculum and “they” should concentrate on more important subjects.
I was shocked. We live in a small town, in an East Anglian county and it’s not the most diverse place, but I was still sure that most parents would appreciate the opportunity for their children to learn another language. But maybe I’m in a minority. Would you be happy to pay a little extra for your child to learn another language? Do yours learn one already? I’m always looking for strategies to help my children remember and use both their languages, so they don’t forget either. Can you share any?
English is the most common second language that people speak around the world. But is being monolingual enough in our modern world?