Good teachers know this about their students: they won’t remember most of what you say. They will always remember how you made them feel. These are wise words for parents of bilingual kids, too, as we make our hundreds of parenting decisions. What is best: OPOL, or minority language at home? Where should the kids go to school? What if the kids refuse to speak the home language?
And in the end, our kids will decide how they want to live. Perhaps they will see our hard work and sacrifice right away, but I suspect it will mostly come down to how they feel about the languages they know. I want my kids to look back on their bilingual childhood as a beautiful and rich time, one in which the feeling was joy.
Remembering Why We’re Doing This
It’s easy to get caught up in the logical reasons we’re raising bilingual kids, and to be driven in our approaches. Of course we want them to be successful in school or careers. But that doesn’t get at the joy we’re going for. Over the past four years, I’ve spoken to my kids in my second language, and at times it’s been tiring, hard work. I do it because I know it will make their lives richer and better. I remember the friendships Spanish has given me, and the wonder of making Peru my home for a time. I think of the conversations they can have with cousins and grandparents, and how they will develop empathy and appreciation for other cultures. I think of jokes and laughter that can’t be translated. Those are the beautiful things make it worthwhile; they provide a why big enough to carry into adulthood….