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

(33 Posts)
LaplanderAndProud Sun 23-Sep-12 03:33:21

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?

MoelFammau Fri 19-Oct-12 00:38:40

I'd try to pass on what I could, even if it isn't much. It's so important to keep cultures and languages alive, even if only a smattering of words are passed on.

Nothing like your situation but I'm Welsh and grew up with non-Welsh speaking parents and grandparents. One day, when I was 5, a teacher came to school and taught us the Welsh numbers up to 12 as well as a few colours. I still remember every single word he gave us and I treasure them.

I'm now trying to learn German, having lived there for 2 years, and it's so so so much harder!

LaplanderAndProud Wed 26-Sep-12 18:07:05

Well, I've found a book. It's roughly 7yr old level, so a bit advanced for all but DD, but they'll be able to read a few words I guess. You're right about the air, the first thing I noticed when I was out of Lapland (so in London) was that the air was dirtier and smellier. I got used to it, kind of, but it has always felt heavy, even if I go to the countryside, it's nowhere near like the air where I lived.

BaronessBomburst Wed 26-Sep-12 10:07:48

Yes! That's my hat. I didn't see any slaughtered reindeer though, it was a very sanitised touristy affair. I remember feeling how nice it was to breathe. The air felt so clean. It's a weird thing to remember but I've never felt it anywhere else.

And yes, definitely teach them Inari. It's part of their heritage.

LaplanderAndProud Tue 25-Sep-12 17:56:13

I lived there for 6mnths (when applying for university, and studying more intently than ever for a place in London) and it was great. SHE NAMED HER DOG AFTER A FINNISH ARCHITECT? It's a bit of a coincedence, but I named MY dog (well, my first dog) after an English architect.

My family had 'poro' (well, reindeer) when I was a child. We stayed at houses, and camped at roadsides (in the warmest tents ever, in the hi-techest (okay, not technically a word) sleeping bags ever on reindeer migration. We also slaughtered them sad. My earliest memory is washing intestines and a tongue in a stream, and seeing blood-covered hides outside, with heads next to them. However, they were treated nicely beforehand, and, from what I've seen of pig slaughter, more humane. Every little thing is used.

Hopefully you forget about the above (and the slaughter) next time you eat poro!

Kveta Tue 25-Sep-12 17:36:20

my sister lived in Rovaniemi for a while and is mad about all things Sami and Finnish! she named her dog after a famous Finnish architect grin I only know one word in Finnish (Poro) but loved visiting Rovaniemi and having poro for dinner!

we are raising our DC speaking an eastern european language which is useless outside DH's country, but totally worth them learning it IMO - it connects them to their father's culture more than anything else!

LaplanderAndProud Tue 25-Sep-12 17:25:00

BaronessBomburst . It sounds Sami, obviously it hasn't happened for ages, Sami's are now (mainly) Christian (though I'm not), but it's a fun tradition. I remember having some tourists coming and seeing us for a festival, we'd dressed up traditionally, had sled racing etc; and it felt great knowing other people wanted to know about us.

I'm glad you kept the hat! (I'm guessing you didn't see the reindeer slaughter (I remember washing intestines and tongues etc; in the river nearby when I was four), otherwise you might not be so keen to be a reindeer).

Is it like this (only red?) If so, that's meant to be a Sami hat. It's a nice hat, I have one, I wear it to Sami weddings (like Scots wearing kilts to their weddings) with a traditional dress, and though only my grandparents (they'd be 95 and 98 now) have ever had one as a proper hat. It's the same as buying a dreamcatcher when going to visit what used to be a Native American settlement. They're nice and warm aren't they.

HolofernesesHead Mon 24-Sep-12 19:27:35

Definitely worth teaching your kids! It's part of their heritage, and shuold be cherished. smile

Narked Mon 24-Sep-12 18:37:12

I read Mis Smilla's Feeling For Snow grin

BaronessBomburst Mon 24-Sep-12 18:31:12

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.

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?

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

LaplanderAndProud Mon 24-Sep-12 18:11:51

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 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

LaplanderAndProud Mon 24-Sep-12 17:09:35

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 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

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

LaplanderAndProud Sun 23-Sep-12 20:12:17

Sorry for a few mistakes in my last post!

LaplanderAndProud Sun 23-Sep-12 20:11:45

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.

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

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

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.

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

Definitely pass it on. It's part of their

LaplanderAndProud Sun 23-Sep-12 18:17:11

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;

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?

LaplanderAndProud Sun 23-Sep-12 17:31:03

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?

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??

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