There are so many things that as parents we spent so much time and effort doing without knowing if our children are really being affected positively by them. We take them to early developmental classes, to the library for story time as babies, to swim and music lessons, some of us even make our own baby food. Then, each of us has a particular area to obsess over. For me is that whole thing of raising multilingual and multicultural children. But how can we measure the success rate of our efforts?
In previous posts, I have shared how important it is for my husband and I that our children speak and understand each of our mother tongues but to also feel a cultural connection with where we come from. I think that I started thinking about the different strategies of introducing culture, tradition and language that I would use with my children well before they were born. Once my daughter arrived, I devoted myself to research books about raising multilingual children and created a little island of bilingual media in our home.
Without much effort, my daughter acquired vocabulary in both English and Spanish and began to comprehend Arabic -my husband’s native tongue. During her first two years, I conscientiously bought books and educational movies in Spanish and read for her only in that language while exposing her to English at playdates and by going to story time at the public library. I made sure of speaking to her only in Spanish while we were home or just us out of the house and in English only in the presence of our friends. Her father took on the teaching of her third language.
Now that she’s almost three and her little brother one and a half, I can actually see all of our effort paying of. Our children clearly have an understanding of the three languages spoken at home and my oldest swims from one to the other without any struggle. But are all those hours of purposefully talking to them in a particular language or watching a specific show what have made the difference? Now I don’t think that I can entirely attribute her good domain of languages to that only.
After making multilingualism/culturalism my daily mission for years, I realize that my children don’t really care in which language they are spoken in or whether they are read to in my native tongue, their father’s or the community language. What they care about is the interaction and that happens naturally between parents and children. The only difference is that to me, it is more natural to interact with them in Spanish.
After analyzing the situation it is now funny for me to realize that the things that matter to us as parents the most, the ones that we worry that our children won’t care about, are often the ones that they acquire in a completely effortless way. I don’t have to think twice about playing my music, eating the typical food from my country, continue the traditions that I have always loved growing up and speaking in the language that holds a big chunk of my identity. These are just parts of who I am and by being myself, I don’t really need to set up any strategies to teach my children about my culture, tradition and language, they will just get to experience them daily!
What are the things that matter to you that perhaps you obsessed over transmitting them to your children a little bit too much?