Expat Parenting in Curitiba 2: Community Service

Community

One of the main reasons for starting this blog was to force myself to start to reading other people’s blogs and to share ideas and experiences.  One of the first things I cam across was a number of people talking about how they had met other people in their community who had told them not to teach a minority language because it would harm their acquisition of the majority language, or people who were distrustful of the second or third language, to people who just thought it was way too much for a child to figure out.

Among some of the things I read was The European Mama wrote about the 10 Things Not To Say To Parents of Multilingual Children, and then later wrote about the what you should say.  Eowyn wrote In Defense Of The Bilingual Child, suggesting that people were attacking them.  Multilingual Mania published an open letter from a parent to concerned teacher regarding the teacher’s request that they stop using Spanish at home.  There were many others.

I girded my loins and was prepared for such reactions from family and friends here in Curitiba.  I needn’t have bothered as the reaction from practically everyone I have met has been encouraging, and sometimes even a little bit envious.

There have been genuine enquiries about how we go about teaching two languages at the same time, but these are born out of a heartfelt interest.

There has been awe and wonder at the fact that a child can learn more than one language.

There have been wistful sighs from people wishing they had been able to learn English at such a young age.

There have been the parents who can only dream about offering their kids such a start in life with two languages.

There have been the parents who know they are going to have pay for expensive English classes for the next 20 years and can only dream about a kind of 2 for the price of 1 language package.

But not once have we had anyone suggest it was a bad idea or that it would negatively affect our son’s Portuguese.  This is true for family, friends and day care.

I am not quite sure why this should be.  Most of my acquaintances here speak English, but it has been hard-won through years of expensive study, so maybe that is one factor.  English language teaching is still relatively poor and there is a huge, unmet demand for good English speakers so maybe people are aware of the advantages.  There are still people here in the south of Brazil who grew up in different language communities other than Portuguese, so maybe that is part of the reason as well.  Or maybe it is just that most Brazilians accept what you do so long as it doesn’t affect them directly and they can continue doing whatever it is they want to do.

Or maybe nobody has said anything to my face and as soon as my back is turned they can’t stop slagging us off.

Whatever the reason, I would like to thank all of my friends and family here for being so supportive and I hope that it continues in the future.

Image: freedigitalphotos.net / Kromkrathog
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4 thoughts on “Expat Parenting in Curitiba 2: Community Service

  1. It could also be because English is a ‘prestigious’ language and most people recognise the benefits of learning Eglish. If you were a Farsi speaker, would reactions have been the same?

    Reply
    • A good point. However, through the cicket team I play in we have a number of Urdu and Hindi speakers who have kids. We were talking about this very point and they said that until the age of about 6 or 7 they didn’t have any problems from the community. From that age onwards, though, their kids gave them lots of problems as they didn’t see the point in learning a language they never got to use. That is partly thecommunity because a lot of the probelm was peer pressure from kids. It was never pressure from adults, though.

      Reply
  2. Hi – I just saw you linked to one of my posts (In Defense of the Bilingual Child) and wanted to comment on this. I agree with Annabelle in that language status plays a huge part in people’s perception of the usefulness of bilingualism. I’ve rarely met a family who was discouraged to pursue “elite bilingualism” for their children (usually involving English and another prestigious language). By raising your child Brazilian-English bilingual in Brazil you are part of a privileged category – the local language has prestige by dint of being the local language, and English has global prestige, so everyone is supportive. If you were to transplant to the US, there is a good chance that you would encounter more controversy regarding raising a Brazilian-English bilingual. I’ve worked with a couple of families here that were English-Portuguese (either standard or Brazilian) and also integrating Dutch, and were told to focus on Dutch and English and basically lose the Portuguese, as it wasn’t “useful” enough. This dynamic was at the heart of my post, which in retrospect did have quite an alarmist title… good luck in your continuing endeavours!

    Reply
    • Hi

      Thanks for your comment and encouragement.

      I think one of the things here in Brazil is that traditionally almost anything from outside Brazil, whether it be cars, ideas or languages, was seen as better than anything from inside. This might be one of the reasons that other languages don’t receive the same hostility as in other places. As Brazil is progressing this attitude to things from other countries automatically being better is (rightfully) receding, but it will be interesting to see of the attitude to other languages changes over the next 20 years or so. It is also useful to note the attitudes to indeginous languages, but that is a whole other story.

      Reply

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