As I often say “A language is like a plant: the more you nurture it, the more it will grow and bloom”. This gives you part of the equation to bilingual education: to be proactive. Yet in some instances, you might feel like this is not enough. This is because you are missing the other part to your equation: your child’s willingness.
This part of the equation can be the most frustrating one. And my inkling is that the younger a child, the less willing they might be; as they cannot get the point of learning a language. In some cases, it might be even worse if they have no elder sibling to look up to and setting the example. Children being pragmatic, they often route for the easy way out of things. And depending on your family’s circumstance, they might only want to use the Majority Language (ML) because they feel it is easier than using the minority language (ml). Some children might reject your ml because they do not like to be different and want to blend into the ML society. Others will have no curiosity at all and will not be interested in the ml.
Whatever the reason, today I would like to bring you a message of hope: nothing is set in stone. Children are budding little individuals whose own personality they are developing. Growth is a continuous process entailing a constant evolution both physically and intellectually; even if you cannot always notice it.
Why do I say that? Because just over 2 years ago, my then 4-year old refused to use her 2 ml. She was being pragmatic (“Mummy and Daddy speak the ML, why bother using the ml?”), she did not want to stand out at school and showed little interest in her 2 ml.
Well, last week, perseverance paid off, and my daughter showed a change in attitude. We had got her speaking our 2 ml by imposing them at home, yet it did not really change her state of mind. However, at the beginning of the year, we were fortunate enough that she was put in a class where there happens to be no less than 5 native English-speakers! This experience seems to have made the penny drop in her little mind. Over dinner, my daughter told me that she had a British classmate with whom she speaks in English! And wait for it: since she speaks English too, she wants to do like her other 5 classmates and attend the 6 hours of class given to them in English (they belong to an “international division”)!
The blood drained from my face in shock. I could not believe my ears! So much struggling for so long and my daughter finally seems to get to terms with her trilingual identity!
We are planning to apply for my daughter to get a spot in the international division for the next academic year, as it is too late to apply for this year. Unfortunately, my daughter already got rejected 2 years ago as at the time she had just recently started to use her 2 ml, and as a result her English was hence too weak compared with the school’s high standards. Let’s hope that with this newly found interest, we might get luckier this time round.
The moral of this experience is simply that nothing is set in stone, even child resistance. Do not give up whatever comes. Sure, by keeping going you might not be certain to succeed in your bilingual endeavour; however by quitting failure becomes a certainty.
Try to be creative and find different ways and opportunities to grab their interest and curiosity. In my case, I had always thought that with my eldest, this would come from hearing peers speak our 2 ml. And it looks like I was right….
Bilingual education is a quest of trial and error to find the key to success. Just keep searching. The treasure is worth every effort made.