Pressure to raise trilingual kids, ugh!

(3 Posts)
donutlunch Wed 04-Jun-14 19:31:50

Hi everyone, I'm a bit new here but hope to get this right. I'd love some advice with a conundrum:

My DH and I were born overseas and speak French and Spanish, but only use English at home. Ever since DS1 was born people gawp at the fact I don't speak anything other than English to him because I love the English language (I used to be a lecturer in my old, pre-mum life) and, more importantly, don't feel very linked to my country of origin.

DH has caved in and tries to speak French to DS1 and DS2, even though he has few links to the country. His line, like many people's, is that it will be hugely advantageous when kids grow up.

I speak four languages and I can categorically state it has never really meant the difference between getting a job or not, at the most you get to be the patronising person who speaks to foreigners 'in their own language' to the embarassment of all concerned!

I'm 98% sure I'm doing the right thing, but the world tells me I'm a a) freak for not being all excited about my not-very-rich-heritage and b) shortchanging my kids out of being in line for UN leadership or thereabouts.

Oh, and I'm quite at ease with the stimuli/developmental groundwork I do by staying home to raise our boys to fret over the big claims people make about multilingual brain development, btw.

Any thoughts welcome, thanks in advance!

HootOnTheBeach Mon 25-Aug-14 00:02:39

TBH I find that the difference isn't notable in jobs as much as in intelligence. At school I was always very sharp, I saw connections that other kids didn't and picked stuff up faster. Even as an adult, at work I see things that other people don't. This is to do with the way the brain is wired when you learn two languages. More connections are formed and subsequently used.

The way you speak, feel and express yourself changes between languages as well. I seem to be incapable of expressing anger in English but in my native tongue I am a fury. The kinds of jokes you make and like, the way you think about things changes.

I was also very grateful to be able to communicate with my mother in public things I could not say in English. It definitely took the edge off to be able to mutter to my mother that 'I will kill myself if we have to listen to Mrs So-and-So talk about her garden for any longer', for instance. I do the same with my DP now (who is learning my language!) and it's great having a 'secret' language all to ourselves in public.

I think multilingualism is massively helpful beyond the boring old 'it help u get better job xoxox' line. There is more to life than work and I think it's important to consider that. Too many people in England are lazy because English is the common language regardless of where you are in the world.

Ellle Mon 25-Aug-14 21:49:20

I would say if you don't want to do it and you think you have no good reason to do it, then don't. Just because other people think you should doesn't mean you have to.
Raising bilingual or trilingual children (as I have found out) takes a lot of work and constant effort. If you love doing it and have your heart on it (like I do), then it doesn't feel like work but rather a pleasure, and you don't mind or even notice the effort.

There are innumerable reasons for which different families choose to raise their children in more than one language.
In my case, I wanted them to be able to communicate with my family (especially my parents) that could not speak English. I wanted to be able to share my heritage, the things I like, favorite books, my music, etc. I wanted them to be able to speak in more than one language and have a love for learning other languages the way I do and also DH.
And it just happened that we were lucky that DS1 seemed to inherit our talent for languages and was such an enthusiastic learner.

If you have no reasons like the above (your family and your DH's family speak good English, not bothered about your heritage, prefer to speak only in English, etc), then there is no reason to force yourself to do something you don't want or don't need.

I do believe all the research on the benefits of bilingualism, but they were an added benefit, not the main reason I pursued it.
Some people say when your children are older they might question why you didn't teach them your language and not agree with that decision.
Maybe that will happen, maybe not, not possible to know right now. But then, if you were able to learn 4 languages, presumably some of them when you were already an adult, maybe they will be able too if they want when they are adults.
I think for them it is easier to learn other languages when they are younger, but usually because the parents make the effort to ensure they have enough exposure to this additional language.

I have met other families were both parents were multilinguals, but only spoke in English to their child. It did surprise me (because I am so passionate about bilingualism and could not believe they spoke so many languages yet their child only one and was neither of the parents' mother tongue language), but at the end I could see it is the parent's choice based on what they believe and what they are willing to do or not.
Whatever you decide to do or not, you will always find others who might not understand your decision, but as long as you believe is the best, they will have to accept and respect it.

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