The secret language
‘Timan’ and I have something nobody can take away from us. And I hope we can keep it up for a long time to come, but even now I know in a way the days are numbered.
After he was born I was considering the options we had. There was Swiss(-German), my mother tongue, English, the language Hubs and I are using together and the one that is used during classes in school from the time on the kids reach 4th grade and there was Creole, Hubs’ native language.
A lot of language experts recommend to wait until the child is 2 1/2 to 3 years old until a second language should be introduced, otherwise this tends to slow down the development of both languages.
But we did not wait until then and started from the beginning with Swiss and English. When you’re talking to your baby, especially during those intimate moments only a mom has, it’s just too hard to use any other language than the one that comes from your heart, comes naturally, your own mother tongue. So I was cooing in Swiss and the Hubs was talking to ‘Timan’ in English. And we were cooing quite differently, no kidding. 😉
This did not slow down ‘Timan’s language development, no, I would even say his benefit was bigger than expected. And I was not surprised at all when I learned about this German Study: Two languages in one child’s brain – When is bilingual language learning best
When the tot was about 18 month old I started to use both languages interchangeably, depending on the situation, because I felt his English is slacking a bit. And it did not confuse him. He figured out which word belongs to which language. And by the age of 2 years he was not behind his peers with his language development, the local tots who were talking (or trying to talk) Creole as a sole language.
I don’t think this has only to do with the child’s genes. Well, of course I think my son is a genius ;-), who wouldn’t think that of his kid. LOL. But seriously, I think it has to do with the language itself and the way people are using it. Swiss or English for instance are clearer and more distinct. If you constantly keep pronouncing the words clearly, don’t mumble, a child will pick them up much easier. However here in Paradise a lot of people mumble their Creole. I hear it from my Hubs, our neighbours, actually from everybody except the presenters on our local TV or radio station. It makes it hard for me to understand and I just assume it makes it hard for anybody who wants to learn the language, like a toddler for instance.
The other day I inserted a new DVD and jokingly I asked ‘Timan’ “What language do you want to hear, English, French, Dutch or German, you know that’s the language Mommy was talking to the lady we met in town the other day when we went for a coffee.” I didn’t really expect an answer to this, also because I was not sure how much the tot actually understood from the chat I had with my friend. But apparently he did understand, and he did understand much more than I was aware of. Ugh.
Concerning the movie ‘Timan’ chose German, what a surprise, wow. Of course I fulfilled his demand with a big smile on my face.
And because nobody else in our area has the slightest idea of Swiss-German, not even the Hubs, it is a unique way to communicate. Swiss-German is a language based on German, but also influenced by French and Italian, depending what particular area you are coming from and what dialect you are speaking. It’s a language that is spoken only. With other words, a child in Switzerland learns proper German in school when he learns how to read and write.
And these days, when ‘Timan’ and I walk around I can
bitch talk as much as I like about anything I dislike in the hood, the neighbours with their loud music or their yapping little dogs or the bunch of men sitting in front of the shop at the road lined up like chickens and watching every skirt passing by with eagle eyes. I can make jokes about them greet them nicely and the only answer is my little son cracking up next to me. Because we are using our secret language.
Are you using more than one language with your kids? What are your experiences or what do you think about teaching them a second language from early on?