Until recently, if you had asked me why I wanted my son to speak English then I would have had lots of ready-made reasons; it is good for him mentally, it is good for him educationally, it will help him find a job that he likes, he’ll be able to travel more, he’ll be able to keep in touch with his family in the UK… There were more reasons like this, butthey all revolved around education, future prospects and family back home.
The other day I was reading a post from Bilingual Monkeys , written by Adam Beck. I visit this site a lot and it has given me lots of inspiration, ideas and motivation. One of the reasons I started this blog was to force myself to visit sites like this, and if nothing else comes from this experiement it has already been a success. There are of course many other great sites out there, just check some of them from my blogroll on the right.
Anyway, one particular post I was reading was called ‘Why Communicating in English with My Kids is So Important to Me‘ and it immediately struck a chord. I think I am in the same boat as Adam in that I am an English speaker living in a country where it is the minority language, we both have enough of the local language to get by and could probably raise our children in it, if we had to.
But knowing enough of a language isn’t the same. I am not myself when I speak Portuguese. I can’t/don’t make the same stupid/funny jokes, explain complex things that are important to me, express myself in subtle and nuanced ways like I can in English. I give much more direct answers in Portuguese and I rarely offer more information than is strictly called for. I find it difficult to produce small talk in English, but it is practically non-existent in Portuguese.
If it is true that I am different person in Portuguese, then my son would never know the real me if he couldn’t speak English fluently. We would find it problematic to just sit down and chew the fat. I probably wouldn’t tell him all the wonderful stories from when I was a kid, all the stories my parents told me when I was his age. Not only would his language skills suffer, but so would his cultural awareness and, more importantly, his relationship with his dad.
It all semms blindingly obvious now that I have read the article in Bilinguak Monkeys. It probably was thre as a reason, dep down, just one that I hadn’t expressed to myself. So thanks to Adam Beck, his little monkeys and his wonderful site for making me see what was right in front of my nose all along.