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Psychological impact of bilingual education on parents part 1

Dinosauro, 5 anni 

 

 read parte 2 di Risvolti psicologici di un'educazione bilingue 

read parte 3 di Risvolti psicologici di un'educazione bilingue

Mothers and fathers of bilingual children: Life is not easy!

 

Dear parents of bilingual children, we are of course  all proud to give this opportunity to our children and everyone around us will recognize the benefits. Has someone already thought about the psychological implications for parents? First we must ask if anyone has ever thought of the parents tout court (but that's another question), but particularly surely nobody thinks about the parents of bilingual children. What is there to think about, you'll ask me?

 

Situation No. 1 Finnish Mom - Spanish father, the father has never managed to learn Finnish, and no one blames him for this, but when mother and daughter discuss about something he does not understand anything, when his daughter watches television he does not understand anything, when his daughter talks to her friends ... he does not understand anything. How will a father feel in a similar situation?

Situation n ° 2 Francophone Dad has a son in a Danish speaking school, being Danish the idiom of his wife. Dad does manage to get around with Danish, but when it comes to do the homeworks he has to call mom, when his son plays with classmates he can not entirely follow their conversations, in cases of school meetings, he prefers to send his wife.

How will this dad feel ? How will his children perceive him?

Situation n ° 3 Italian mother, Dutch father. Mom gets along in Dutch and when the child speaks Dutch in the presence of both parents she tries, though strictly in Italian, to join the conversation. "Mom, I was speaking in Dutch with dad," replies the son, who knows very well he has an additional weapon in his possession compared to his monolingual peers. Won't that mom feel excluded from the family life?

We could tell several of similar stories. Some have more marked psychological consequences than others, but they all point to a pivotal aspect of the matter: parents.

The fact is that we all do it with pleasure, that we all see the benefits for our children and therefore we'll never let go of this daily grind, but it is interesting to talk about this effort and demystify the legend that children absorb everything and automatically grow up bilingual, when the conditions are right to do so.

First we have to ask what we mean by bilingual: if it is enough that our children understand us that they more or less manage to talk with their grandparents then yes, I can confirm that this happens automatically and without effort on the part of anyone. If your aim is  to have a good or even excellent command of both languages, then everything changes.

The latter requires constant monitoring by parents, especially as regards the minority language. Parents are therefore having to keep on their toes, always careful to correct any errors, including pronunciation, if you do not want that your child ends up speaking with a foreign, or at least "strange," unnatural accent. That said, we face in our everyday life a series of simple decisions which become for us a reflection issue. For example, buying a DVD, in which language? Is it good if our children watch the same series of cartoons once in one language and  once in another? Initially I thought not, at least until they are very young. My husband and I have splitted  the television series, the Smurfs to you, Disney to me, and so on.

Do not you mind though that your child will never know what it's called in Italian "Brainy smurf" or Bashful? And then down to search the web for the names of the Smurfs or the 7 dwarfs and translate them as they appear on the TV, so that our children, being in an Italian-speaking environment, may appear in all and everything real Italians! So long, growing up, one day, with your great relief, they will ask you: "Mom, please buy the Smurfs in Italian?" And you feel relieved and pass to the next step, mentally ticking the case of "Smurfs" on your long, endless list. Personally, I can only speak till the age of 5,so far, so I can not tell you how this story continues, maybe some of you are already on the road ahead and can enlighten us and give us valuable advices. However, despite everything, do not be discouraged because the road is winding, but also rewarding!

 

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