Pin It
Thursday, January 26th, 2012

When Relocation Adds a New Language to the Mix

By
Relocation and language/ incultureparent.com

I am now faced with another move 18 months into our Asian adventure, having not yet finished arguing with myself over how much to encourage (hyper-parent) my kids to learn Mandarin on top of our three family languages.

We are relocating to Bangkok. This opens up a whole world of new possibilities. First and foremost, it means I will be able to afford daily massages, as we will no longer be living hand to mouth. I can honestly say I have dreamt about that for the better part of 10 years. Much of Asia may be deemed cheap but Singapore is definitely not. If anything, it’s rapidly rising through the ranks of the most expensive cities in the world and has recently surpassed Hong Kong in this domain. Singapore is often called “Asia for Starters,” a totally apt description. While there are lots of things that make it so, one often overlooked fact is that English is the language of government, business and education.

Nothing screams “I’m not in Kansas anymore” than wave upon wave of unintelligible words knocking you over in confusion. I am not talking about the summer holiday in Tuscany where remnants of long-lost Latin and high school Spanish help you pick out the odd intention. I’m referring to sounds you’ve likely never heard before. And yes, many expats in Singapore will complain of the odd taxi driver who rattled off some Singlish they didn’t understand but seriously, that is not foreign language immersion; many of us live out of Tanglin Mall & Cold Storage; it is barely cultural immersion.

An old friend, who has been living in Shanghai for the last three years, congratulated me on our upcoming move to “real” Asia. With this move comes the introduction of a new language—Thai, which will topple our already unstable Franco-Spanglish trinity. To a certain extent, I can predict the impact of this. For my husband and me, this means putting French and Spanish respectively on the backburner while we try to acquire a working knowledge of Thai as quickly as possible. I am sure it will be hard. For my husband it will inevitably be frustrating since he has the added pressure of needing it for work in his 98% local Thai office. I don’t doubt it will be hilarious for many around us. Hopefully, we can remember to laugh at ourselves.

The real concern that keeps me up at night is how the language change will impact our children. At 16+ months, Baby C should be ok. She has mostly heard English, French and Tagalog, with some Spanish on the weekends from Papa. She will start attending a bilingual French-English nursery and any frustration she experiences will probably be manifested as screams and tantrums; I can write it off as age-related and teething, ridding myself of any guilt from inducing language confusion.

Not so with Miss P, who is nearing four. She’s a highly sensitive child who doesn’t like trying new things and is very easily frustrated when she can’t get it perfect right off the bat. Her English is growing stronger everyday. Following an 18-month hiatus, she’s finally re-sowing French words and expressions into our conversations. She also makes a good Spanish effort even though it seems clear to me she is struggling to understand quite a bit of it. After months of exposure and lessons at school, she has a newfound affection for her Mandarin teacher and hence the language. Now she will be switched from her English-Mandarin school and put into the French lycée. She will have lost her English-speaking amah (nanny), whom she loves and will likely be replaced with someone who only speaks Thai. Thai will be spoken everywhere. And Spanish will still struggle to keep its foothold in our lives.

I want my mother’s intuition to be wrong. I want my kids to be way more resilient than I imagine. I want P to remain unphased by these linguistic upheavals. I want to suffer and struggle on their behalf. And perhaps most importantly, I am gaining a better understanding of why some people chose not to give this “gift” of multilingualism.

© 2012 – 2013, Cordelia Newlin de Rojas. All rights reserved.

More Great Stuff You'll Love:


A Different World: No Longer Brown in White America

Is it racist to not want to raise your kids in white America?

An Islamic Perspective on Child-Rearing and Discipline

Does Islam's reputation for severity and harshness apply to how Muslims raise children?

Family History

Who knew that becoming a mother merged our histories of loss and grief

Are French Kids Better Behaved Because They are Spanked?

Should spanking be part of your parenting toolkit to have well behaved kids?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Born in New York back when subway graffiti was rife, Cordelia Newlin de Rojas mostly spends her time pondering, parenting, and writing. Franco-American, she spent her summers in the Loire indulging in heart-arresting foods. An eclectic background ranging from Japanese art and postal history to environmental social innovations and rigging dinghies has taken her to England, Turkey, Singapore and now Thailand, where she resides with her Mexican husband and their two daughters. They are attempting to raise trilingual kids in Spanish, French and English with some Thai thrown in. She can also be found blogging at multilingualmama.com.

Leave us a comment!

3 Comments
  1. CommentsAnnabelle   |  Thursday, 26 January 2012 at 1:45 pm

    I so understand your feelings. Having lived in Germany for 11 months we are also facing a new move and new linguistic challenge. I also wish i could struggle for my little one. I wonder whether these changes are going to affect in a way we cannot plan. I wish i could hear from adults who have been in these situations while little. Anybody?

  2. CommentsPeter   |  Friday, 27 January 2012 at 1:58 am

    Hmm. I suppose the best solution is, as you say, to remember to laugh at ourselves and just get on with it. There’s little point regretting things (for instance, the loss of Spanish you mention) that you can’t do much about. Best instead to see things in terms of opportunities (if you can) and make the most of them. On the other hand, if you are concerned about the consequences of too much instability, perhaps it’s worth thinking about whether relocating again and again is worthwhile, as you mention? Something (I guess) to bear in mind for the future.

    Peter

  3. CommentsJanuary Carnival: It’s time for an injection of cultural color & fun! | Multilingual Mama   |  Monday, 30 January 2012 at 11:17 pm

    […] languages and do this often as an outsider since many of us have long ago acquired ours. In When Relocation Adds a New Language to the Mix, I ponder the impact of imposing all these languages and look forward to putting myself in the […]









Notify me of follow-up comments via e-mail.
Or leave your email address and click here to receive email notifications of new comments without leaving a comment yourself.

Get weekly updates right in your inbox so you don't miss out!



A Children's Book for Raising Global Citizens

Every life is a story. It’s easier to understand someone when you know their story.

Why I Travel 13 Hours Alone with My Kids Every Chance I Get

Travelling with children, while definitely more of a mission, contradicts the old saying that “life is about the journey, not the destination.”

A Diverse Book for Preschoolers in Celebration of Multicultural Children's Book Day

A book that honestly and simply celebrates the every day diversity that children experience.

Why My African Feminist Mother Gave Me the Identity of My Father's Tribe

She gave me an identity so different from her own.

2 Children’s Books about Jamaica

Explore Jamaica with your child.

Costa Rica with Kids: Two Weeks of Family Travel

Two weeks of Pura Vida in a country with so much to offer families.

Should I Worry about My Child's Accent in Her Foreign Language?

See why Dr. Gupta takes offense to this question and where children learn accents from

How to raise trilingual kids when exposure to Dad's language is limited

My kids only get 1-2 hours of the minority language per day-help!
For quite sometime, whenever there were articles that surfaced the internet concerning whether it was appropriate to breastfeed in public, I was so baffled. As a Mongolian, I was so shocked that som...
From Breastfeeding in the Land of Genghis Khan
For quite some whenever there was articles circulated on the internet concerning whether it is appropriate to breastfeed in public. As a Mongolian, I was so shocked that some countries considered i...
From Breastfeeding in the Land of Genghis Khan
I live with my Czech in laws with my four children and my Czech is crap I try to learn but the baby doesn't sleep well I'm a constant zombie and the brain just doesn't work. Plus being tired makes m...
From How I Reclaimed My House from My Mother-in-Law
I am so glad I found this site. I am happy to see that I am not alone in experiencing 'family issues' after getting married. I am not from the West but I am married to a Canadian. I never truly unde...
From How I Reclaimed My House from My Mother-in-Law
[…] my most favourite article about breastfeeding called Breastfeeding in the Land of Genghis Khan by Ruth Kamnitzer. I have no doubt that Mongolians would find our social stigmas around [R...
From Breastfeeding in the Land of Genghis Khan
[…] sources and reasons for the rules of these countries too, such as China, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Germany, Iceland, and Hungary (see above re “Titanic”).  Has anyone got s...
From International Baby Naming Laws–Are They a Good Thing?
[…] Source Inculture Parents […...
From Lotus Lanterns for Wesak (Buddha Day)
If your nerves shat down your hormones , can you get pregnant by injecting a sperm in you to develop a baby . Please let me know...
From Baby-Making the Hindu Way
[…] Diwali Lantern from InCultureParent […...
From Diwali Craft: Make a Lantern

More from Our Bloggers