Balanced Melting Pot

Multilingualism

In Parenting, Questions on August 4, 2008 at 9:04 am

The discussion about multilingualism may come and go in the mainstream media, but it is a continuous hot topic among immigrants. We decided to place our daughter in a French immersion program since preschool. We have questioned our decision at times, but not as it relates to benefits to her overall development. There is this underlying debate within the Haitian community about whether or not parents should teach their children to speak Haitian Creole. French is often seen as a language of the elite and if that is the language you choose, than the assumption is that you are denying your true heritage. Luckily, our daughter is very smart (not that I am biased here 🙂 ) and can move between English, French and Haitian Creole with ease. As we prepare to make the decision for our son, I would like to have an open mind about all the options available, as well. 

How do you decide whether to ensure that your child is bilingual or not? Moreover, how do you choose the languages you would like them to speak fluently?

Is being bilingual an important skill for your children to posess? If so, do you pick a commonly spoken language that will give them a competitive edge later in life? Or, do you choose the language of your family, regardless of its prevalence, to allow your child(ren) the ability to communicate with family members in their mother tongue?
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  1. I think being bilingual is important. This is also important depending on where you live. For instance, in Florida my boys would be more influenced by their Haitian culture/langauge, because that’s where a majority of my family members are. In California, they are mostly influenced by their Mexican culture. I would love for them to speak French, Spanish and Creole, but right now I feel that Spanish will give them a better advantage here in Cali.

  2. A lot of parents struggle with this issue. I don’t have children yet, but I’m already trying to decide which language(s) I will use in raising my offspring. Good job. Looking forward for future posts.

  3. It is very important for us. I am an anglophone that grew up in Quebec and learned French as a second language. I met my husband while studying in Germany. He grew up bilingual German and French (his dad is German, his mom is French). We are raising our kids in Quebec and speak English and German at home. We are sending our kids to a trilingual school (French, English, Spanish) and most of the other kids there are French-speaking.

    It is not always easy. Our kids have taken to English much more than German, even though my husband and I speak German with each other. They see that the outside influence of the world around us is primarily in English and have gravitated towards that. My husband has a natural reaction to respond in the language that people speak to him in, so he speaks a lot more English to our kids than we would like.

  4. I think that making the decision to raise your children bilingual is only half as difficult as following through with it. We have the same problem in deciding who speaks which language and how often. Using the One Parent One Language (OPOL) method is just not practical for us, so our daughter tends to pick the language that she feels like using in any given coversation; regardless of the one spoken to her. Now that she’s going into the first grade, we are starting to think about how long we should leave her in the bilingual program. The tough decisions never end…

  5. If I am an immigrant leaving in the US, naturally, my kids will speak english, in Spain, my kids will speak Spanish, in France, my kids will speak french. However, because I am an immigrant, I came from somewhere else other then the country I am leaving in right now and that place has a culture that is imperative to my opinion to teach to my kids. It is my duty to do that not only by my own experiences and by facts (books) but I also need to take them back physically to their roots. With that being said, they would need to know how to communicate on their own, do their own research, get their own knowledge. Only then will they understand who we are as their parents, their friends. Is it best for them to pick up a second language that would benefit them perhaps financially in the future or is it better for them to know who we are, therefore, who they are? There is a thin line between the two and only them should decide to cross or not to cross.

  6. It’s true that inevitably our children will go on to make their own decisions about their lives. I think that’s why it’s so important for me to instill as many values, especially those relating to our minority culture, as much as possibly while they are still impressionable.

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