Multilingual child parenting
I was born in Slovakia and after my university studies I decided to travel. After travelling around the Europe, I based myself first in Greece and later in Cyprus, where I live since 2005. The island of Cyprus is known as the birthplace of goddess Aphrodite, I call it “destiny” that my little “Aphrodite” was born on this beautiful island, that we call our home. My daughter’s birth resulted to a sudden transformation of mine, from one day to the other I converted from a party girl into a happy and at the same time anxious mother of a multilingual child.
I grew up in Slovakia and as such I had zero prior experience with bi- or multilingual society, education or parenting. As I was researching extensively the subject of multilingual parenting, I came across various trends and myths: “multilingual children start speaking late, they don’t master any of the language perfectly; they only have one dominant language; they confuse and mix languages and grammar, etc.” Well, enough “to scare the crap out of me”. I was really concerned that my child will not be performing well in the local kindergarten and later in the school compared to local children if I speak to her my mother tongue.
However, deep inside me I found not at all natural to communicate with my own child in other then my mother language. Although I believe my Greek and English are very good, I have an accent and it is just obvious those are my second languages. So I started my own journey, despite all the myths. My daughter learned Slovak at home, Greek at school and English with our friends, watching series (I thank to Peppa Pig for her lovely accent J) and other various TV or youtube programs for children.
I have to admit, it did feel very rewarding and satisfying hearing my child talking and laughing with her grandparents, my friends and children of my friends in Slovakia. Additionally, she automatically gained the positive attitude towards Slovak culture, traditions, folk songs and dances, poems and movies of my childhood (Majka z Gurunu, Arabela, Popoluska to name the few..)
Once she started attending the local school, I shortly realized that she is progressing very fast with her Greek and it will be very difficult for us to keep her Slovak skills and vocabulary at similar level. In order to learn grammar and express herself correctly in Slovak also in writing, reading books and our conversations were not sufficient anymore. We had to find time to sit down and actually „study “. And suddenly we had a „drama “. Even though my daughter loves everything that is Slovak, she felt that I am putting too much pressure on her and only naturally she was pushing back. She suddenly didn’t appreciate my effort to teach her Slovak (I am sure every parent understands). Oh well, the battle has started. I remembered our battle with veggies, so I used the same principle. Patience, persistence and repetition, persistence and repetition and some more patience. Oh no, who am I kidding – which parent has so much patience? J
Instead of troubling myself, I have found a very good “partner in crime” – the Flamingos school! Despite of my daughter’s other activities and interests, we have always managed to organize our time in the way that she could attend our Slovak school. Well, I will not pretend that she was always thrilled and excited to go to Slovak school after her full day in local school. But sometimes she doesn’t even want to go and play at the beach (!!!????). Still, we managed to have Slovak school as a regular part of our busy daily life. Since the time the school started offering online classes, the process became much easier. The whole stress of moving across the city is gone, my daughter can open her tablet anywhere and anytime, she is less tired and looks forward to her classes. She likes the fact that she can work with tablet and/or laptop, she learned to use the keyboard, to browse internet, create and share her projects and so on. Priceless skills for her future, as online lessons are truly an excellent combination of efficient and fun learning of the language accompanied by using of modern technology.
This time my reward is when I read her creative stories, amazing letters and post cards to family and friends, all in Slovak language. She even started to write her diary in Slovak. I can see that her level of Slovak not only keeps up, but sometimes even overpasses her Greek. I don’t dare to predict the future of my daughter, even my parents for sure didn’t foresee my live the way I live it J. In any case, I don’t want to blame myself for missing the chances for her future from the language standpoint. It is impossible to predict our fast-changing world and to see today how her knowledge of Slovak will help her one day, either professionally or personally. Maybe she will find her life partner or will have a chance to run her dream gymnastics school - in Slovakia, who knows... In any case, I believe, that the knowledge of the additional language, her mother language, will always be a bonus.
I would like to share this message with parents in similar situation as I was a few years ago – don’t be scared to raise your child in a multilingual home! We understand that sometimes it can be very challenging, there are children often refusing to speak Slovak and refusing any kind of cooperation with their parents. It is hard for a parent to handle every aspect of parenting and on the top of everything else teaching a child two and more languages at home!
The Flamingos school is here to help you, we all are “in the same shoes”. Believe me, it is a very satisfying feeling seeing your child studying and having fun at the same time, all that in the comfort of her room. Simultaneously, you can have a “me time” – whether that means a book time or home-duties time. The best of all is that you are not a “bad and strict” parent that forces your child to write essays and practice grammar over the weekend anymore. Rather an opposite, you can have fun with your children doing everything else and leave the Flamingos school to handle with care their Slovak education, vocabulary and grammar.