Parenting 2.0

For the Love of Language

Posted on: March 8, 2010

English and French: the two official languages of Canada, and Borys and I definitely want Niko to learn both of them. Speaking both languages will provide him with so many more options in the future.  Seeing as English is always around him, that’s a done deal. And as for French, well Borys speaks it, and Niko will probably end up attending French Immersion or a French school, so yes he will speak French, but what about a third language?

With a trilingual (Polish, French and English – learned in that order) daddy Niko has the opportunity to learn even one more language. If it was up to me, I’d like him to learn all three. But seeing as I don’t speak much Polish – well let’s face it, I can probably count the number words I can say using just my fingers – the process of teaching Polish to Niko would be left completely in Borys’ hands. On occasion Borys speaks Polish to him, but he says it feels sort of strange because I don’t know what’s being said, and our family conversations are all in English. Actually, in talking with another couple they also want their child to learn English and French, but the father feels the same way Borys does about talking to him in his first language (which is neither English, nor French) – he says it just doesn’t feel natural; it feels more like he is teaching his baby as opposed to just living life.

What are others’ thoughts on this? Should a baby learn as many languages as possible if they have first hand access to the language? I find it strange that I’m the one pushing for Polish, and Borys is somewhat resistant. But, when it comes down to it, I’m not the one that would be speaking and teaching it to baby N. He is. So I guess it really is out of my hands.

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19 Responses to "For the Love of Language"

We are in a very similar situation! I speak Spanish and English and dad speaks Polish and English. We also live in Canada so we definitely want to take advantage of the French education system. I think that the more languages, the better! It is difficult getting there, though, and I think our baby will be very confused at first (he just turned one), but it is worth it. I speak to our baby in Spanish and Kuba tries to speak to him in Polish, but he feels a little bit like Borys. We got him some books in Polish and Kuba reads them to our baby so he gets used to the sounds. That seems to help him feel more comfortable speaking to him in Polish even though I don’t understand a lot. We also bought him some DVDs in Polish. We are going to Poland for easter and will be stocking up on books and educational things as well.
I think it is important that our baby grows up to be proud of his background and language is such a big part of that. Anyway, good luck with everything!! Czesc 😉
~Andrea

czesc andrea,
thanks for visiting and thanks for your comments. i really like your ideas about the Polish books and DVDs. I mentioned that to my husband, and this is how our conversation went:
Borys: You really want Niko to learn Polish?
Me: Yes.
Borys: Well, OK then.
So, now…just to find some good kids stories in Polish…
As for the babes being confused, I think if they don’t know any different then it won’t be that confusing 🙂
Poland for Easter?! That sounds wonderful!
Take care, Alli

P.S. I wrote a post in my blog about multilingualism a couple of weeks ago, if you are interested:

http://silenceandnoise.wordpress.com/2010/01/20/multilingualism-
nie-si-maybe/

It has a link to a very interesting article on the topic.

Cheers!

interestingly I was just talking to my spanish houseguest about this. She is spanish, her husband is german and their children go to french school in Germany. She speaks to them in Spanish, her husband speaks to them in German and they study in French … Her children are 9 and 7. It seems that they speak all three languages fluently, without accents, but perhaps their vocabulary is smaller than it would be otherwise.

Her recommendation: send your child to school in the language that is the most difficult to learn to write properly (ie. French — fluent speaking ability doesn’t necessarily translate into fluent ability to write with the proper tense and accents). While the kids may be slower to develop enormous vocabularies in all languages, the vocabulary will come with time.

In Europe it is perfectly common for people to speak 3, 4 even 5 languages. Aim high Canadians! The world is a big place and what a gift you will give your child if he or she can explore the world and their heritage with the tools of language.

I vote speak Polish Borys!!!!!

I agree Carolyn. At first I was leaning toward French Immersion for school, but in talking with some teacher friends on the weekend, they all seemed to agree that the French Immersion students they teach, really don’t have a strong command of writing in French, which makes me think that French school would be better. But, then I struggle with the fact that I would not be able to help Niko with his homework (that is unless I follow through and finally learn French too…) Hmm…there’s some food for thought.
à la prochaine, xx

Bruce and I have been having similar conversations lately. And in the end, we agreed that we want Emiliana to learn as many languages as possible as early as possible. Borys and I are proof that kids learn languages so easily when they are realy young. We both learned French and English so quickly once we moved to Canada. So… I plan to speak to Emi in Polish, Bruce will speak to her in German (even though I don’t speak German and he doesn’t speak Polish) and we’d like to put her in French school. And she will definitely pick up English by virtue of living in North America. Who knows… if we stay in Florida for a few more years, she’ll probably pick up some Spanish along the way too!

Hey Ola,
I will let you know if I come across any good Polish or German books, k? Wouldn’t it be cool to hear Emi and Niko speaking Polish to each other one day? I also hope that Niko will pick up MSN lingo, lol, btw…hahaha. xx

I agree with the idea of as many languages as possible. As for us I speak Japanese all day to Nina right now, not that she remembers anything but I am hoping she gets used to hearing Japanese. G speaks English to her and we think of French emersion for her education. Good poing on French school but I am not sure, like you are, when it comes to helping homework etc if Nina goes to French school…
I speak Japanese, English, and Spanish (this is very weak. am forgetting it so fast) My third language was French but I only learned for a year and never practiced it and cannot speak, however, the knowledge of French language helped me learn Spanish.
As many languages as possible, as it gives so many oppotunities and fun in the future! So my apology if you do not understand what I say to N when you are around. I try to speak in both Japanese and English!

It seems this is the general consensus – the more language learning the better and I agree. As for Niko – who knows maybe he will pick up Japanese too 🙂

Why doesn’t Grandpa and Borys speak Polish around the baby?? Won’t be all the time – but then maybe it will be a bit more natural for B?!?

that’s what we’re workin’ on

I’m really glad you two are talking more about this. It might not seem natural to Borys, but it will give Niko choices as he gets older; even if he never takes advantage of his third language. As I’ve grown older, I am so disappointed that my German speaking family didn’t speak more German with/around me. They felt that since English was the language that I would communicate with day-to-day and because one side of my family wasn’t of German heritage, they spoke mainly English to me. The bits of language I have is from listening to them speak German with each other mainly and the odd times we would speak it together when I was a child.

Good luck!

thanks mel…time will tell I guess 🙂

[…] many more doors are opened if you can speak both of the country’s official languages, and in the future we hope that Niko speaks both English and French fluently.  He seems to be off to a bilingual start anyway, just not a French and English […]

Get your little baby a t-shirt that says “Speak to me in Polish.” and put it on him all the time. Then when Borys sees the baby, he will remember to speak Polish, and he will not feel uncomfortable because he’ll be doing what the baby wants.

I like it!
Now where to find such a tee…
thanks for the comment. 🙂

apprend les francais alli, puis nous pouvons tout parle francais!

I do an hour a day now. Building the Vocab !

i’ll do what i can – k!
actually i would love to learn french…it’s just sort of finding, or i guess rather making the time…my goals are usually fitness or work focused – not so much language related…
salut, A

[…] didn’t Niko and Emi become fast friends. They started speaking in Polish the minute they saw each other and overall got on quite famously. Or maybe they were just cooing in […]

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