21 August, 2012

…and when are you going to stop?

"…to stop speaking English to your son", is what my friend Alberto asked me when he knew about our project. This is a question that I had never been asked before all along this bilingual adventure, and it truly made me think a lot. When people hear you speaking in other language to your child or when someone brings up the subject, it´s normal to go through a 3rd grade, but I certainly didn´t see this one coming, and my answer was “I haven´t thought about this yet”.
Like Sarah Jessica Parker said (this doesn´t make me gay, ok? Period), I couldn´t help but wonder… How is this going to be in the future? Once I have established that our communication must be held in English, will there be a time when I´ll have to openly admit to him that I´m not a native speaker of the language and that our purpose is that he gets more opportunities in the future?

Will he come to this conclusion by himself when he is old enough? How getting in contact with native speakers will affect him and how he perceives my non-native discourse? How will the bilingual school fit in the whole picture? He´ll be sharing classes with kids that start from scratch at the age of 3. I bet 99% of them have never heard a word in English and their parents don´t go further than “hello good morning”, so I suppose he´ll feel odd for some time. Will it be “safe” in terms of consistency if (someday) I step into the dark side and speak Spanish to him? Am I worrying/speculating about things that will happen in at least 10 years and therefore breaking all the records in the history of worrywarts? Probably yes, amen to that (who´s with me?)… But I´m afraid this is included in the bilingual parenting kit that they give you when you make this choice, so I guess I won´t be getting a refund…
I have read Mr. George Saunders´ book which I consider one of the bibles of the multilingual literature and he describes his relationship with his sons, always in German at least until they were teenagers. Once I´ve started looking for more, I haven´t been able to find much information about bilingual families with toddlers and kids older than 6 or 7 years old, and if there are some, tracking these experiences as the kids grow older becomes difficult. The documented examples of non-native parents with kids in their teenage years or above are hard to find. If anyone has some guidance, It´ll be much appreciated.
And now the question: Have you thought about the future of your bilingual strategy? Especially those of you that aren´t native speakers; do you have something planned?  

1 comment:

  1. This is so interesting for me as a mum raising my kids with non-native French! I've no idea how long I would've managed without the immersion French school, but talking French to my kids was getting increasingly challenging and I was starting to worry about all the mistakes they might be picking up and gaps in their vocab, etc. Luckily now that they are at immersion school, I can talk English with them, knowing that they are getting enough French input. But I think it really boils down to your level of fluency. I can see from your blog that your English is at a native level, whereas I was at a good conversational level only.