I write about my life and life itself seen through my eyes for who can write through the experiences of others if not their own?

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Keeping It Alive

When I was pregnant with my first child I worked with women of the same age who were expecting as well. That summer we had our children in sequence, June, July, August, and November. Coincidentally, we were all of different nationalities.

My friends would give me a disapproving look whenever I addressed my child in my language. I had no plans of leaving the United States, I was well adapted to this culture, therefore, according to my coworkers, there was no reason why I should teach him other than English. I would delay his speech and it would only harm him.

I was aware a second language would delay their speech by a few months but the advantages outweighed the delay.

My reasons were simple, he is of Latin origin, why pretend he is not? Learning his roots I felt was important. We can only be proud of who we are when we are proud of where we come from.
As such we insisted and persisted during their growing years to make them speak only Spanish at home. As expected, they picked up English quickly through TV, friends and school (they did not need ESL). We got through the Elementary school years when English became easier and they resisted and resented a different language at home.

Eventually my kids became bilingual.

I kept in touch with one of my former coworkers and our kids went to school together. One day when my son was addressing me, the young girl asked “Mom, why don’t I speak Tagalo? That would be so cool”.

I am very proud of my roots and confident enough of who I am that I often joke about my “own”. I don’t feel “different” or sensible about the subject of foreigners, basically there is no chip on my shoulders and I wanted to transmit that to my kids although there was very little culture infused in them other than the language. But that in itself may have aided in creating a good combination. In addition to being bilingual, my kids’ taste in music – and what they add to their IPods – includes a cumbia as well as Aerosmith or any other English speaking band or singer. They devour a hamburger as gladly and tastefully as an empanada. And when my daughter turned 15 she gave me the sweetest surprise by celebrating her Quince in the traditional way a Colombian would.

My kids are proud of the country where they were born and where they live, and they are also proud of the roots from which they come.

Without having taught them my native language, I don’t think they would have been.