Food for thought – Are we freaks for rearing our children bilingual?

Last week, I hit a bit of a low as my eldest daughter unexpectedly resisted her minority languages (ml) again. On the way home from school, she asked if we could start speaking French at home again.

Though I love my daughter and do not like her to be upset, there is no way we are going back on our strict ml@home policy as she would loose her ml.  I have already lax the rule a little, giving her Majority Language books for her after-school homework club and occasionally have her read a ML book with me to practice her ML reading skills.

But as a parent, such situations obviously impact me emotionally, and doubts inevitably creep up and harass me all over again.  And one of them in particular: am I a freak for trying so hard?

I turned to the BilingualZoo’s amazing community for support, and as always, fellow bilingual parents inspired me. I owe this post to these friendly fellow bilingual parents, and would like to thank them again for their wisdom, which I would now like to share with you.

But, first of all, what is a freak? According to the Oxford Dictionary of English, it is:

1. A very unusual and unexpected event or situation. (…)

2.1 informal: A person regarded as strange because of their unusual appearance or behaviour.

3. informal with modifier: A person who is obsessed with a particular activity or interest…”

Does it apply to us, when we rear our kids bilingual?

Well, 1. we are in an unusual situation, as our monolingual society makes monolingual education the norm.

2. Rearing bilingual in a monolingual society is an unusual behaviour.

And 3, as bilingual parents, we do tend to get obsessed with this bilingual education.

So yes, we are pretty much freaks!

Okay, so that does not sound great, however as Adam Beck, the author of “Maximize Your Child’s Bilingual Ability: Ideas and inspiration for even greater success and joy raising bilingual kids”, highlighted to me, we are good freaks.  And I could not thank him enough about this comforting description.

Freak is usually a rather negative-tainted noun, however obsessions can occasionally be positive and make us good freaks.  How can being obsessed in our bilingual education journey make us good freaks?  Remember that:

  1. Our ultimate goal is to benefit our child’s education – just like we want them to eat healthy food for them to be ultimately in good health, or study well to get better career opportunities in life.
  2. Our children always ask for certain things that a reasonable parent will deny, for instance lots of sweets or screen-time – So setting a language rule is only another reasonable step to benefit the child’s development.
  3. We try to rear bilingual in a natural playful way, to make this serious business of bilingual education joyful and successful – Our aim is to make it as natural as possible for our children through living the ml, and not through hard labour by adding hours and hours of extra-curricular language classes to pick-up the ml.
  4. We are doing something that most likely our child will ultimately be grateful for, once s/he comes of age to appreciate the amazing gift we are giving him/her – A small child cannot make reasonable decisions, this is our role as parents to make them for him/her.

So if you ever are feeling  freaky about this whole bilingual journey,  take a step back, and acknowledge that, yes, to monolingual society standards, you are a freak… but a good freak for your child’s greater benefit.

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7 Comments

  1. Good freaks, uh? I like that… yesterday I sort of announced through Instagram and Fb stories (text written in Spanish) that I will become all radical in talking in English 24/7 to my daughter, so if those around me don’t understand me or I look like a “bicho raro” (-you get it, right? the literal translation for that would be “weird bug” and that expresion perfectly match the definition of freak) there’s nothing left to be done but to be respectful and even better if you -the person reading the story who eventually may be around me- could be comprenhensive and supportive. Well at least on Fb those stories (the message had to be divided in two parts) got some likes… so it’s a start. I wonder if the idea of looking like a freak is an inner fear (others may consider me a freak) or a real situation. Either they do consider us freaks or as a matter of fact they are respectful, supportive and open minded.

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    1. Carolina, in my personal experience it was not imagined but experienced, for instance:
      – A relative once lashed out at me saying “can’t you speak to her in ML??!!”
      – Another relative repeatedly said I was confusing my eldest.
      – A colleague was honest enough to say she thought I was making a huge mistake.
      – I had a pediatrician telling me to quit speaking English to my eldest (but did not request my husband to quit speaking Spanish to her…).
      – A friend of ours was always mocking about us rearing trilingual (until he heard my eldest come up to us and speak in English… then his jaw fell, he was gobsmacked and speechless 😉 )
      – A very hostile stare in the supermarket queue.
      And some families experience worse situations than these. Brace yourself because until your daughter will answer back to you in ml, people will consider you a freak. Fortunately, it gets easier once they witness your child replying back in ml.

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