To have another language is to possess a second soul.
I’m a Boricua de Suecia. I talk Swedish, write + partially think in English and wish I was better at Spanish. My native language is Swedish in which I am fluent, but my mother tongue are English and Boricua Spanish and as a kid I was (actively) taught neither of the latter.
I think, the gift of language is one of the greatest and most precious gifts we can give our children. I have to admit not being passed on my mother tongue makes me frustrated to this day, however, since ethnicity & culture are such important parts of my life and identity (in the making) I have taken it upon myself to become fluent in both so I one day can pass on these languages to my own babies.
I want my kids to be brought up in a multicultural home where they will be part of both their parents' cultural identities. I want them to be able to understand me when I read them bedtime stories in all three languages; to ask for abuela or titi; to sing Barney’s “I love you” as good as “Det lilla ljus jag har”; to see their tiny little bodies joyfully move to the rhythms and beats of latino music, to say “Mira, mama!” when they proudly come to show me the fish they've caught and most importantly: I want them to grow up with enough multicultural goodness for them to apply & develop a cultural identity of their own.
I've shamelessly discussed this matter with a lot of wise human beings and been reading articles upon articles to see what thoughts and different perspectives there are on raising multilingual kids. What I've realized is that it's pretty much like raising kids in general - everybody have different opinions on what to do and you have to find, follow & create your own methods & ways that are good fit for your situation, family & little ones. Also, we all know there are situations that potentially could make it extra hard passing on language and culture to our kids, like being ill or not being the primary custodial parent making it hard or sometimes even imporrible to raise multilingual bebés full time. There's really no "one size fits all" and we can only do what we can do!
The following is a little collection of a few of my favorite #multilingualbebe links; stuff that make me ponder + I find useful already and things I want to try out when the time comes. I hope you find them interesting and helpful!
How about this for a calm, loving and precious preparation for the soon arriving little one: exposing the baby with the language while it’s still unborn. (Spanglish Baby) LOVE THIS!
"In other words, as a direct result of my bilingual quest, I think I've ended up giving more of myself to them during their childhood. And this has no doubt deepened our bond."
The very best thing about raising bilingual kids (Bilingual Monkeys)
The best (and longest!) list I've found so far with tips on raising multilingual children (Bilingual Monkeys)
"How raising multilingual children made me a better person" (European Mama)
An interesting article about how babies sort our language. (New York Times)
Bilingual mom Jeannette Kaplun shares her thoughts on raising bilingual kids (YouTube)
So, what does it really take to raise multilingual children? I guess that will remain an exciting mystery of theories & thoughts until I experience it myself. However, what I think I can say now already without sounding completely ignorant is that I believe the most important thing you need to have when it comes to all this is the will (and ability!) to share your language with your bebecitos. Raising multilingual kids can be out of this world amazing and rewarding, but requires a lot of hard work and it would be a lie to say it doesn't come with lots of trials and tribulations too. The will to share the language and culture with your kids definitely has to be matter of the heart (or plain stubbornness, haha).
I might not have been actively taught my mother tongue as a kid, but I most certainly inherited the love for these languages. Enough to have become fluent in English (at least when it comes to writing, my accent is a whole other story...), enough to have gone from only knowing how to say "caca", "mira, mira" "vamos" and "caramba" to know how to say "pass me the donuts" and "I'm on my period, can you please buy me some chocolate?" in Spanish (among other incredibly important phrases and words), and enough to have the determination to learn more so I one day can gift my own babies these idiomas de mi corazón. So...pase lo que pase, come what may! Whatever, I'm all in for this whole raising multilingual bebé thing!
Are you raising, or planning to raise multilingual bebés? Are you a multilingual kid yourself? What problems are you facing and what advantages & victories have you experienced?
I'd love to hear your thoughts!