You might be wondering when to embark on your bilingual parenting journey?
I love the saying: It’s never too late. It sounds very comforting to me. I like the hope factor in it. I like staying positive no matter what, it’s an approach that has paid off in my life on many occasions.
But it must be said, that there are times in our lives when there is a kind of a gap, sometimes a very small one, when an opportunity presents itself and if you spot it, your life will change forever.
It may not change instantly in front of your eyes, but you usually realise it retrospectively.
You will understand that you jumped at the right opportunity that presented itself and it paid off.
With learning languages, especially for kids learning two or more languages at the same time, it seems this way. Provided you start at the right time, it will be MUCH easier than if you put it off.
In fact, looking back at all the hard work the bilingual parenting seemed to be at the time, it seems like a piece of cake when I look around and see how ‘hard’ it is to learn languages when kids get older.
When is the right time then? NOW!
The period when your to-be-bilingual children are very small babies doesn’t last forever, no matter how distorted your perception of the first few months of your sweet little bundle of joy may be.
You see, when you’ve got a new-born and you are getting up several times a night, you are sleep deprived. The first few months of your baby’s life seem like an eternity.
That certainly was my perception at the blessed time.
But surely, I am not the first one to have this revelation, I can just confirm that the time is flying by and the sleep deprivation period will be over before you know it, so don’t despair.
As overwhelming as it might seem, when you are very tired, you just want to exist.
Or it might feel that you are just existing:
eating – sleeping – feeding the baby – changing nappies – freaking out that it feels like you’ve done nothing all day – the house is a mess….
You are probably very familiar with this. Your ideas of how exciting parenthood is, totally shattered. You might still be fighting to come to terms with this.
An idea of reading one more piece of “sound” advice in that recommended parenting book or blog feels just off.
The only thing you’re craving is a bit of peace for heaven’s sake! No theories, no fluffy maybes. Something that REALLY works, something that brings results, no fairy tales.
I was exactly like that when my first bilingual baby was born.
I was pretty much sick and tired of existing, of all the confusion, of my lack of intuition and I was definitely not up for reading some more advice that could fix that.
I just wanted to be reassured that what I was doing made some kind of sense and that it would be, hopefully, good for our bilingual child, in the long run.
But even when I was still pregnant, I was not very keen on doing too much research on how to bring up a bilingual child. I actually bought one book on the subject that I never finished. I tried to read it a few times, but never got into it. I always ended up only reading a few pages, skimming through chapters that caught my eye.
As you can see, I pretty much failed to do my homework.
I didn’t do any proper research on the subject of bilingual parenting, let alone follow much of the expert’s advice.
Partly because I couldn’t find any hands-on advice that jumped out and make me feel: “Yes! This makes sense. Let’s do this!”
So, I decided to work it out myself. After all, I am a linguist by trade.
In my defence, my pregnancy wasn’t the best time of my life.
I didn’t feel on top of the world most of the time.
Maybe I had glowing skin and hair, but I couldn’t care less.
Very shortly after finding out the glorious news, I was diagnosed with a very rare autoimmune disease called myasthenia gravis. I was very excited about being pregnant with my first child, but I spent loads of time worrying.
In fact, I was a bag of hormones most of the time – literally, a nervous wreck as my pregnancy progressed. I was scared, I was not sure about anything, I just wanted a healthy baby to arrive and I wanted it now!
Any baby parenting book or advice, let alone on bilingual stuff, was just driving me insane.
That’s why I stopped reading about all the baby stuff.
Finally, in January 2009 my first baby arrived and I was on my way to calming down.
At least I thought so.
Despite my survival on very little sleep and other struggles that came with a new-born at the time, in my head, I managed to come up with a very basic plan for my bilingual parenting:
- I took a decision that I would speak to my child in my native language only. A minimum of 99.9% of the time. Even in the company of others who don’t understand it.
- I discussed it with my darling husband (who is not bilingual at all!). We kind of agreed what would be happening on a daily basis and the basics of how it would the bilingual parenting work for all of us.
- I made a commitment to stick with it no matter what, because I truly believed that this would give our baby the best chance to be bilingual.
That’s all. Simple, but not always easy.
You too can raise your child bilingual, you absolutely can.
But it is good to have some kind of a basic plan.
Otherwise it could, as many good intentions do, disappear in the grid of our everyday lives.
So, go and make a simple plan and don’t miss your bilingual boat.
P.S. Any plans yet? 🙂