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Expat Parenting in Curitiba 2: Community Service


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
Written by
Noah Cooper

I'm the head of the Cooper heard. My wife and I moved abroad when our first son who came along in May, 2011. I am a typical Brit abroad with a family to raise and am sharing the journey of the expat life abroad.

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Written by Noah Cooper