‘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?
Before I was talking about ‘Timan’ taking a liking for gadgets, but there is something else he likes to do and about this one I’m not concerned or worried or anything, I am just so happy he’s doing it and asks for more.
In paradise all the kids are playing outside most of the time, but that’s only possible early morning or late in the afternoon, when it’s not too hot and the sun is not grilling everyone in its beam. But I’m not talking about playing outside either.
‘Timan’ loves to ‘read’ a book. I think the interest in writing has to be nourished from early on, otherwise you might never really getting into it, especially when you are living in a place like the paradise. But it’s probably the same everywhere in the world. And I’d like to tell you how we did it.
We started early on, when he was just a baby, lying on my lap and looking at my face while I was reading to him, later we moved on to the little cardboard books, great to chew on ;-). But this was a good way to improve his vocabulary. I was always telling him the name of the things in Swiss and English hoping both words will stay (most of them did) but now he’s just using the one that comes to his mind first.
Around the time ‘Timan’ was 18 month old he was interested in animals, transport, fruits and vegetables. Later I introduced colors and shapes and after that I followed with letters and numbers. He has other ‘educational’ toys like alphabet puzzles and such but I think he likes his books most. And he has many of those little books and some more with little stories inside.
Those story-books are helping ‘Timan’ in many ways. He’s looking at them on his own. But what he likes most is sitting on my lap while I am telling him the story, at the same time we both experience many wonderful cuddling-moments. And we are talking about the things we are looking at, about the colors and what’s happening in the picture.
But nowadays he doesn’t let me tell the story, not even with a new book. ‘Timan’ is the one, telling Mommy a story. He’s telling me what he sees in the pictures. And later he’s trying to figure out where the plot is heading. A new book he keeps carrying around all day long, is taking it with him to sleep and is telling the new story to everyone he sees during the day.
I was reading a lot when I was a child and I will definitely encourage this habit with my son. Apart from a vaster vocabulary he knows his colors and a lot of letters. The numbers he’s learning while playing with the phone and the remote controls. But I’m following his lead, he wants to read, we read, he wants to play he plays.
But one thing we don’t do and this might surprise you: There is no story time during our bed time routine. And the bed time never is or was a problem (so far, knock on wood 😉 ).
It goes like this: dinner, brush teeth, shower, watch the news, watch the weather forecast (for whatever reason this is very important for him and every day we have a guessing game who is going to present it), last run to the toilet, in my arms while I’m standing in front of the TV for a couple of minutes, I put him in his bed (‘Timan’ is actually telling me when he wants to lay down after a couple of minutes), I give him a kiss, wish a god night and leave the room. That’s it.
I started doing this when I stopped nursing him, that time he was 22 month old. And it worked from the beginning. But unfortunately only I can do it, it does not work with Hubs at all. And because of that I never have to clear the table and do the dishes when we are all eating dinner together.
Is your little one a ‘bookworm’ too? What about your nighty-night, the bedtime routine you have? Are you telling a story or are we the only ones doing it without? Please tell me about it.
Living in a country far from your home country or the place where you grew up is sometimes great fun, opens your horizon, lets you think differently and helps your mind to see outside your little box. I think when a child is growing up multicultural and multilingual it is definitely a benefit for his future.
Here in Paradise it’s like this: During the day, when Hubs is at work, I am talking to ‘Timan’ in my mother tongue Swiss-German (a language that is only spoken but normally not used in writing. All the written text is in High-German, which is using quite different words and sentence-structure). English I’m using with Hubs. But English is not the primary language for both of us. Hubs’ mother tongue is Creole. He is using English with ‘Timan’ and I am joining them whenever we are all together as a family. Because everybody in Paradise realizes I’m a foreigner after a couple of words, people are switching to english with me and ‘Timan’.
The only time I can practise my Creole, is while watching the local TV, listening to the radio or hear people talking. And by communicating with small kids in the neighborhood. In one year time, ‘Timan’ is going to pre-school, and everybody is going to talk Creole. I just hope, he is going to catch up quickly and I will be able to practise my own Creole with him.
I would like to give him a head start with Creole as well, but whenever I am trying to, I just know I am twisting the sentences and end up talking rather French than Creole.
But maybe I should not be worried at all, after all he’s not even 2 1/2-years old and kids are like sponges in this age. He’s very good in Swiss and catching up with English at a very fast rate.
So I lean back, have another cup of coffee, and see what is going to happen.
I’m just wondering, which one of the languages is going to end up being ‘Timan’s mother tongue: Swiss, English or Creole?