Hezbollah, the Cumin-timer, and the Box

At the Singapore airport last Sunday. We had South-Indian food for lunch, and North-Indian for dinner. I also got four Rasgulla, a Bengali paneer (home-made cottage cheese) based dessert.

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Me: Do you want to try this Leila? It’s called Rasgulla. I used to eat a lot of this when I was little. Really yummy.

Leila: Did you made the Hezbollah by yourself when you was little?

Me: WHAT? No Nani (grandma) used to make it for us a lot. Here, you want to try the rasgulla?

Leila: Yes, I want one Hezbollah.

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Me: Leila is the humidifier on? Can you check please.
Leila: Yes mum, the cumin-timer is on.
Me: It’s a hu-mi-di-fi-er.
Leila: Difier.

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Maher: Vous voulez aller a Starbuck avec moi, les gars? Comme ca on laisse maman faire son “practice”?

Leila: Starbox. C’est un “box” papa.

Me: Come on guys, it’s Starbucks.

Leila looking at me from the corner of her eyes: Ok papa, let’s go to Star BOX.

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How to Make Rasgulla: Indian Dessert Recipe

Frenglish

“We speak Frenglish,” Rahul and Leila say as they squeal with laughter at the discovery of this new “word”.

They often use both French and English words in their sentences. Although we are a OPOL (One Person One Language) family, and are pretty consistent with it, the kids are now mixing up both French and English words in the same sentence.

Sometimes, they even use French sentence structure in English, like Maher does when he speaks English. I don’t remember what is correct anymore myself.

Frenglish –
“Papa is travailling.”

“I am cherching the ball.”

“Can you leve up your arms.”

“I want to aller to the pont now.”

“Can you go avec moi?”

“Who c’est ca?”

And then Rahul hesitated with “what” in the two languages.

Quat?”

A Bilingual Family Shifts Easily Between Languages
Bilingual Brains are Better
Myths About Bilingual Children
Montreal Comedian Sugar Sammy on Multilingualism
Franglais

Translating Bullshit into Bullshit

Rahul and Leila chopping play dough vegetables.

Maher: Qu’est ce que tu cuisine Leila?

Leila: Uhhh, I’m cooking mothika.

Maher: Ah bon. C’est quoi “mothika”?

Leila: Papa, ummm, en francais c’est lita.

Past Tense

Some phrases I’m hearing often nowadays:

“I do’d it already.”

“I taked off / take offed my shoes myself.”

“I pick upped the clothes.”

“I comed here before.”

“I throwed it….”

“I bringed it…”

“I catched it…”

 

Canadian: A Guest Post by Bea of The Little Grovers

When Natasha asked me to guest post, I was faced with severe writer’s block and have been putting it off. I am so impressed with how the previous guest writers are teaching their children multiple languages and feel a little intimidated.

I discussed the subject of raising children in a multicultural family with my husband and we came to the same conclusion. Though my heritage is Italian-Irish, and T.’s is Korean we both feel Canadian. My parents immigrated to Canada when they were children and I was raised, for better or worse, in a single language speaking home.

My husband came to Canada as a small child with his grandparents and speaks Korean with his family. Because he has no formal education in Korean, and I’ve been told he speaks like an old country woman due to his dialect, he is not that comfortable conversing in his native language.

This is all a long winded way of saying that we only speak English with our kids at home. There will be the obligatory French language classes in school, but we have no plans to teach our kids Korean or Italian outside of a few phrases.

Both of T.’s grandparents have passed away, and he has a few aunts and uncles here in Canada. I’m sure they would love it if our boys learned Korean, but we do not see them often enough for them to have much influence over the boys language development. And three out of four adult relatives do not speak English though they have lived in English speaking Canada for decades so I do not have a well developed relationship with them.

I took some Italian language classes as a child, and again as an adult but I never really put it into practice and would be incapable of holding a conversation now.

Am I doing a disservice to my children by not teaching them more than one language in these early toddler years? If we as parents are not able to speak more than one language with our kids, should we invest in language classes for our kids?

To catch up with me and my toddler twin boys, you can find us at http://www.littlegrovers.blogspot.com.

Only French?: A Guest Post by Pascaline

(As part of the series: A Monday Morning Guest Post in Multicultural Mothering)

Pascaline: Born in Greece, I grew up in a bilingual French / Greek environment. I lived between Greece, Africa and France. My husband, “I”, French of Lebanese and Syrian origin is also multilingual: French/English/Arabic, and has lived in France, Africa and Canada. We are both what some people call, “Third culture kids,” our parents being expats for most of our childhood. In 2008 when we decided to move to China, we became expats ourselves.

In January 2011, I gave birth to a baby girl, N.

——————————————- Only French? ————————————————–

“What languages do you talk to your baby?” I am often asked after introducing our family. Immediately, I feel awkward,”We speak French.”

“Only French?” is the standard reply.

I feel guilty.

My husband and I speak 3 languages fluently. We both speak French at home. I speak Greek with my family; he speaks Arabic with his. We speak English with our friends; we live in China, so Chinese is always around.

So, “Only French?” makes me feel really guilty.

Am I a denying my daughter precious knowledge?

Long gone is the time language specialists believed that having more than one language around babies “pollutes” their abilities and results in poor command of the language. Complaints or disadvantages ranged from: the bilingual child speaks later and less than others of the same age, he will have difficulty in his language development, and he will never be able to speak one language properly.

Today the (same?) specialists say that bilingual children are more creative, more open and flexible than others. Being bilingual is to be equally comfortable in both languages and have references in two cultures allowing to understand and accept differences.

So many advantages, so why is it so hard? Let’s be honest, to raise a child with two or more languages requires hard work. It’s easy to give in to pressure from the majority language – French for us – and forget the minority languages (Greek and Arabic). Both my husband and I learned our second languages in an unusual way.

My husband learned basic Arabic from listening to his mother – since he was a baby – talking to her friends on the phone or over cups of coffee. At first, he had a basic understanding, and then by interacting with people who speak Arabic, his ability to understand and speak has developed more naturally.

I was bilingual until the age of 7; my mother spoke Greek to us. When she passed away however, French became the only language at home. I completely forgot Greek. At the age of 12, we moved to Greece and I had to take Greek classes – beginner’s level. Despite that, I discovered that it was easier for me to learn Greek compared to my French classmates, I didn’t remember a single word from my childhood, but I was able to speak and write faster than the others, and I didn’t have a French accent!

I want to talk to my daughter in Greek. I want her to learn about Greek culture (and no it’s not only about the lousy financial situation, riots and paying of taxes for many generations). I want to find those sweet Greek words and I want to sing those Greek lullabies from my childhood. Later, it will be up to her to choose: to either develop it, or to drop it. But at least I would have given her the basis for a good start.

A close friend told me that in order to maintain the minority language to a satisfactory level, we have to offer the child a rich and stimulating environment in that language – books, songs, friends.

I bought Greek Childrens books, but I always pick the French and English ones. The animals in the Greek books look at me strangely.

When I play lullabies for my daughter, even the Spanish songs sound better; the Greek ones are awkward.

Greek family and friends? As most people living away from their countries, we see them once a year, not long enough for our daughter to learn anything. And where we live now, we speak English with our friends.

So we have the books and the songs and a few friends, but with a common family language (French) and a social language (English), where can poor little Greek fit in? She hears a lot of French, some English, and some Chinese, but we speak only French to her.

And I still feel guilty.

Greek just doesn’t come naturally.

How did you introduce a minority language to your kids? How did you deal with it?

Related article – Hearing Bilingual: How Babies Sort Out Language
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/11/health/views/11klass.html?_r=2: