350 speak my parents' language as a first language...Worth teaching my kids?

(33 Posts)

I'm from Finnish Lapland, specifically Inari. I'm Sami (basically, my family were herders). My children know Finnish, English and Swedish, and know a few words of Inari- anything I shout at drivers really, so as you can guess, none of them are especially nice words. Worth teaching? I only know a few words myself, so I'd rely on my parents to help, but being Sami is such a large part of me and my life. Even though my first language was Finnish, I still grew up with people talking (mainly swearing) in Inari, and I want to keep it. Should I, and how should I go about doing it?

Romilly70 Sun 23-Sep-12 05:39:49

Do you live near your parents? Obvious thing would be for your DCs to spend time with them and speak Inari
It is a shame the language is dying out, but if you are keen, give it a go...

sleeplessinsuburbia Sun 23-Sep-12 06:55:14

I'm in the same position (different language though) and I think it's worth it.

I don't live near my parents, I'm in Stockholm, and they're in Northern Finland. But we go every single holiday possible, and in summer we stay around five weeks, and I could get them to record videos or make a CD so they can help teach. We both have Skype, which is also useful (but I can't phone them, no signal over there). I think I'll try it.

UptoapointLordCopper Sun 23-Sep-12 15:47:26

Yes. Worth it. And always very handy to have swear words in another language. grin I'm wondering how to pass on insults and swear words in my language... It's something you learn from your peers, isn't it? How old are your DC?

My DC are 8, 6, 3 and 17mnths, and I'm having a baby in October. My 8yr old knows swear words in Inari, and my 6yr old knows a few words. My 3yr old names his toys the Inari word for it. The 17mnth old is the same as te 3 and 6yr old really- a few words, that's all.

They already know Finnish, Swedish and English, and I'm wondering if there's any point, because they learnt each language because they had loads of people around them speaking it, or DH or I spoke it, and with Inari, it's hard to get that exposure, in fact it's nearly impossible. I think there might be only five children or so who speak it as a first language, most people who speak it fluently are middle aged or are old. I don't thnk it's possible for them to become even half fluent, but I'd like them to learn a bit.

notMarlene Sun 23-Sep-12 17:19:09

I think it'd be a wonderful gift to give them, even if you can only pass on a just a tiny bit it's so, so valuable.

CachuHwch Sun 23-Sep-12 17:21:21

Absolutely worth it. The benefits of speaking more than one language as children are well researched and documented, and apart from that, it's a part of their heritage, and a wonderful gift. It's so fantastic that they have 3 languages already! Well done you. smile

slambang Sun 23-Sep-12 17:26:14

I'd say as it's such a minority language it's even more important to pass it on. Once the language has gone it's gone forever and as an important part of your dcs heritage it would be tragic if it was lost to them and the world.

However. It will probably be really diffifcult to teach it to them if you are not fluent. Long summer holidays with the grandparents perhaps??

We find it difficult to have holidays with my parents. There are loads of reasons. One, they are reindeer owners. The reindeer get slaughtered, it's life. I helped when I was a kid. But I don't want my kids exposed to that, so it already minuses two weeks. As well, the migration of those animals means it's very difficult with young kids. Winter, Easter etc; is the only time really, but I was considering going even with the slaughter (it sounds cruel, but it's really just like eating pigs or something), and spending that time in the towns or villages, or even staying in a hotel?

UptoapointLordCopper Sun 23-Sep-12 17:32:14

You can't have too many languages. smile

Naming toys is good too - our toys have two names (and sometimes a stage name too hmm).

How about stories / mythologies?

I'm trying to teach them traditions too. There are VERY distinctive traditional clothes (though they and we used snowsuits and ordinary clothes) and we sometimes take them on the reindeer migration, where they get rides on the back of motorskis, but we let them see that. We take them to the main festivals, like Christmas etc; and to specific Sami events, like the fairs and things, where we camp in tents outside and you can watch reindeer races, lassooing etc; Mythologies and beliefs are good ideas- traditionally, we had shamans (obviously long gone), but there are loads of animal-based myths and stories which could interest them.

Stories which aren't myths are very hard. Like I said, it's almost extinct. I've found 1 DVD in all my searching, and it's for adult learners, not children, but I'm trying it. There aren't any dictionaries, kid's books etc;

Jinsei Sun 23-Sep-12 18:27:03

Definitely pass it on. It's part of their heritage.smile

gallicgirl Sun 23-Sep-12 18:32:10

Oh yes, you should give it a go.

Languages are more than just a way of communicating. It's thoughts and feelings as well as words and your language lends shape to your thoughts, IYSWIM.

UptoapointLordCopper Sun 23-Sep-12 19:19:56

Just out of interest, how do your parents regard your DC's vocabulary in Inari?

Well, my parents think that my DCs' vocabulary is fairly good. They don't know about the swear words (apart from one unlucky time when a car stopped suddenly without any break lights and DD cheerfully announced, in Inari, 'Mummy, that guys a (Inari equivalent of) evil bastard'). They're pleased that they know the names for 'bear' 'wolf' 'fox' 'horse' 'owl' and 'puppy' (the type of toys which are given Inari names) and is fairly pleased that DD1 can at least read the equivalent of a 5yr old or s, in Inari (basically Magic Key type levels).

They get frustrated sometimes, because their natural language is Inari, though I was brought up with Finnish as well as Inari, an it can be difficult communicating ideas to toddlers and little children outside your native language.

Sorry for a few mistakes in my last post!

Romilly70 Mon 24-Sep-12 09:29:45

Well OP, I think it is an amazing culture (not just language) that you are keen to pass onto your DC's. We live in France, so DS should be bilingual, but I have a 3rd asian language from my parents which i would like DS to be exposed to. That is only possible for a month or 2 each year when we visit my parents, as i am not fluent and DP is not from that culture.

I think (like all things with parenting) you just do your best to expose your children to as many positive influences as possible, (as you obviously are).

Perhaps when they are a bit older they can spend more time with your parents. I think it is brilliant that they speak 3 languages already.

good luck with persevering with Inari

CMOTDibbler Mon 24-Sep-12 09:47:48

Could you send them some childrens books in Finnish, and ask them to write the equivalent in Inari underneath? Could do the same with childrens dictionaries.
Your parents could record videos of them telling stories, or translating books that the children already have in another language, which would be lovely for the children too so they can 'see' more of them

Thanks CMOTDibbler. I've been reading them stories, but I didn't really think about written down stories (I know, I know, I'm stupid). We're skyping and might record videos. I was thinking about some Inari games? When I was about six, I played this funny little singing game which was really common then, all in Inari, and was like It but with some songs. They might enjoy it, so maybe they'd learn from it? (though the only words they'd learn would really be catch, quick, quicker, speedy, slippery, seal, under the tree and a few connectives, otherwise they know the words like 'wolf' and 'bear' which are in the game).

CMOTDibbler Mon 24-Sep-12 17:57:05

Games would be great, as it makes it a living language for them, and something easy to share with others. Games and songs are things that live on outside of conversation use.
You might be able to get advice from one of the groups who try to preserve endangered languages as to ways to proceed.
BTW, I'm very happy to 'meet' someone who is Sami - I work closely with a big group of Finns, go to Helsinki fairly often, and though I've been as far as the artic circle in Finland, have never met anyone from the far North

So you like Helsinki? I went to university there, and it's a lovely place. So anything which makes it a living language then? Games, books, DVDs (maybe subtitles on their favourite films?) and stuff? We go to a lot of celebrations which would hopefully help. DH is a bit jealous (he's Swedish and he says he's desperate to have an 'endangered' language- being Swedish in Sweden is apparently very, very boring).

CMOTDibbler Mon 24-Sep-12 18:20:01

Yes, love it there. Will be there next week in fact. Though I always enjoy going to Stockholm too.

If you can get subtitles on things, that would be fab I'm sure as it just reinforces without effort

Narked Mon 24-Sep-12 18:25:55

Could you get your parents to record themselves reading some stories? Or even just them talking about family stories of you as a child?

I went to Finland once and had antlers dabbed on my forehead in soot so that in the next life I'd come back as a reindeer to the host's families herd. It was a tourist thing really, but is that Sami? I also have a very distinctive red felt hat with four points for the four winds, and lots of ribbons on. It's very tatty now as it's about 20 years old but I love it and wear it every winter.

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