One of the main reasons for starting this blog was to force myself to start to reading other people’s blogs and to share ideas and experiences. One of the first things I cam across was a number of people talking about how they had met other people in their community who had told them not to teach a minority language because it would harm their acquisition of the majority language, or people who were distrustful of the second or third language, to people who just thought it was way too much for a child to figure out.
Among some of the things I read was The European Mama wrote about the 10 Things Not To Say To Parents of Multilingual Children, and then later wrote about the what you should say. Eowyn wrote In Defense Of The Bilingual Child, suggesting that people were attacking them. Multilingual Mania published an open letter from a parent to concerned teacher regarding the teacher’s request that they stop using Spanish at home. There were many others.
I girded my loins and was prepared for such reactions from family and friends here in Curitiba. I needn’t have bothered as the reaction from practically everyone I have met has been encouraging, and sometimes even a little bit envious.
There have been genuine enquiries about how we go about teaching two languages at the same time, but these are born out of a heartfelt interest.
There has been awe and wonder at the fact that a child can learn more than one language.
There have been wistful sighs from people wishing they had been able to learn English at such a young age.
There have been the parents who can only dream about offering their kids such a start in life with two languages.
There have been the parents who know they are going to have pay for expensive English classes for the next 20 years and can only dream about a kind of 2 for the price of 1 language package.
But not once have we had anyone suggest it was a bad idea or that it would negatively affect our son’s Portuguese. This is true for family, friends and day care.
I am not quite sure why this should be. Most of my acquaintances here speak English, but it has been hard-won through years of expensive study, so maybe that is one factor. English language teaching is still relatively poor and there is a huge, unmet demand for good English speakers so maybe people are aware of the advantages. There are still people here in the south of Brazil who grew up in different language communities other than Portuguese, so maybe that is part of the reason as well. Or maybe it is just that most Brazilians accept what you do so long as it doesn’t affect them directly and they can continue doing whatever it is they want to do.
Or maybe nobody has said anything to my face and as soon as my back is turned they can’t stop slagging us off.
Whatever the reason, I would like to thank all of my friends and family here for being so supportive and I hope that it continues in the future.
Image: freedigitalphotos.net / Kromkrathog
Part of the thing about raising a kid to be bilingual is that it often involves at least one of the parents living in a different country. So not only are there the normal problems (and opportunities?) associated with raising a family, but there are also language and cultural problems for the parent or parents.
In my case I am the parent who is dealing with all the excitement of living in a different place. Over the next few weeks I am going to be writing a little bit about what it is like to be a foreign parent living in Curitiba, in the south of Brazil. There will be a few rants as I give vent to some stuff that really gets on my nerves, but hopefully I will also be able to reflect on the positive side of living in this city.
Before I get in to all that, it might be worthwhile giving a bit of my background to try to put things into context.
I first came to Curitiba about 14 years ago to teach English at a small school called Liberty. Prior to that, I had taught English in both Poland and Taiwan. Towards the end of my contract here I met a girl who, many years later, I ended up marrying. Between meeting her and marrying her we lived in the UK and Curitiba. She also had a spell of nearly 2 years working for the OAS in Washington D.C. During that time I also managed to pass my Trinity College Diploma in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages and get an MA in Linguistics from The University of Birmingham.
When we got married we decided to live in Curitiba, but soon after she got a job in Rio de Janeiro and we spent almost 5 years there, working and partying and generally having a good time. At least I had a good time because my wife hated the heat and chaotic nature of Rio.
When my wife got pregnant we decided it would be much better to come to live in Curitiba for free babysitting and because the cost of living is so much cheaper than in Rio. There is also a belief that Curitiba is safer than Rio, although I am not sure I agree with this idea.
So, about 18 months ago we came back to Curitiba and then the little bundle of joy that is Thomas arrived. And then my life changed irrevocably, and I won’t say if it changed for the better or worse.