MotherTongues: Wear Words, Celebrate Cultures

about words, languages, cultures, travel

Making peace with our language journey August 17, 2013

multilingual sign

I had big ideals when our girls were born. They would be bilingual, bicultural, and able to read, write and speak two languages fluently (Afrikaans and English). Later we added Spanish to the mix. The more languages, the easier it becomes, right?

The last year or two I’ve come to realize more and more the truth of this John Lennon quote:

“Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.”

Our youngest was in a Spanish Immersion class in Michigan, and was able to read and write Spanish by the age of 7. Moving to a new state changed the education options available to her. She now has only one and a half hours of Spanish instruction per week. Our oldest daughter is currently in a Middle School with a special before school Spanish program. She gets an hour of Spanish instruction each weekday. Even though we can supplement our Spanish learning at home through reading, listening to music, and watching movies in Spanish, we don’t always get around it.  Who has the time, right?

On the other hand, the kids are hearing more Afrikaans here in Nashville outside of our house than they did in Michigan. We’ve had friends and family visit over the summer, giving the kids’ Afrikaans a boost too.

I have now come to accept that each of our language journeys will be different, and will not always go as planned. Sometimes we’ll have the time and the opportunity to learn a lot. And sometimes our language abilities will be stagnant. If we rely on the school system for language learning, we will not have a lot of control over the journey. But cultivating a love of language in our kids, will make them lifelong learners and enjoyers of language. And I’ll be happy with that.

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