Wednesday, March 9, 2011

'Carnivalous' Inspirations

I've been meaning to write for days, for weeks really, about how Kaya was speaking 80-90% German with me, and likewise English with Geoff, for about 3 weeks (as of a few days ago)!! I was in this state of bliss, with nearly every phrase and sentence that left her was epic. I still want to write that post...but as I sit here, kid-less on a Wednesday night (thanks Gramms and Grampa!!), I have tears in my eyes from an incredibly inspiring interview I just read through the Bilingual Carnival.

If you don't know about the carnival, it is a essentially a list of posts written by bloggers from around the world, dedicated to the topic of bilingualism, multilingualism, language learning and raising bi- or multilingual children.

To find out more about it, sign up for a newsletter, read previous carnivals, or find out how you can get more involved, Letizia Quaranta of Bilingue per Gioco is the organiser and the Carnival page is here.

The post that I just read is about an American man, Douglas Hofstadter, who raised his 2 children in Italian, his non-native language. They were raised primarily in the States, with annual visits to Italy; an Italian au-pair at home for a few years; and a few years living and going to school in Italy. His kids are 19 and 22 now, and get this...and not only continue to speak only Italian with their Dad, but with EACH OTHER as well!!

I'm inspired.
Clearly inspired.

I feel a strong connection to this Douglas, not only because of our non-native language commonality, but also in regards to his thoughts about whether communication between him and his children suffered because of his decision to speak with them in his non-native language:

"No one ever seriously questioned my decision to speak Italian with my children, except for myself, every once in a while. There were certain occasions when, in speaking with my kids, I felt a little bit limited, a little bit frustrated by the “Italian cage” that I had put myself in. I simply wasn’t able to say some things in as lively, as expressive, or as colorful a way as if I had been speaking with them in English. But this was a deliberate trade-off — although the kids were doubtlessly deprived of a little color and humor in English (and also some subtleties of their Dad’s personality, since I am a very word-conscious person, and my entire personality revolves about how I use language), in return they gained access to the Italian language, the Italian culture, and a whole marvelous world of people and places."

I have often thought the exact same thing, that I'm caging myself in with my decision to speak a non-native language with Kaya, loving the interplay of language as much as I do. But he said it so well. In return, she gains so much.

I've been "leaving room" for the possibility that Kaya and I might switch to English down the road, should 'something come along' (like our waning desire...). After reading this post, however, I've changed my mind. I'm leaving no more room. I know, I know, that may sound very closed-minded, as I tout myself as the open-minded mama that I believe myself to be. But the way I see it...I am simply going to put energy, full energy, into what I want for me and our life, and if I 'leave room' in the way I've been 'leaving room', the energy isn't completely there.

I'm sure I've lost some of you. Energy schmenergy.
They probably think I should move to Sedona and grow crystals.

My point is this: I'm back to believing it's a possibility, this life-long German relationship with Kaya. I feel like I've gotten some solid reminders about how to instill a love of German (and multiculturalism), and for now, I'm gonna ride this horse and enjoy the feel of the wind in my sails!!

For more details, check out the whole interview!


  1. I think it's quite interesting how his kids made the choice to speak Italian to each other. For me, it confirms my suspicion that my kids speak mainly English to each other because my eldest (much more dominant at this point in making the 'sibling relationship rules') insists on it. As opposed to me feeling guilty for not providing enough input and encouragement to speak German.

    But we'll see how it turns out - I sure have not given up hope (or my efforts) for them to speak German to each other. At some point.

    And nice to hear that Kaya is such an expert already at keeping her languages apart!

  2. Hi Tamara

    The timing of your latest post was uncanny. It is interesting to note that through Douglas Hofstadter's positive message you have taken comfort and so feel stronger and more able to continue and, likewise, through your positive message today I am feeling a boost too.

    Great to hear about Kaya's progress - this is the stuff that bilingual dreams are made of !!

    The past few days, for me, have been full of far more questions than answers (I will blog in more detail about this when I have a moment) in the meantime, I would be interested to know what your thoughts/ plans etc re schooling for Kaya are and, if she is to be educated in a monolingual English system how you plan to deal with the impact on German - particularly whether you are planning to have her discuss her homework in German too so as to increase her vocab knowledge and whether you have worried about how you will be able to explain the more complex issues to her in German e.g. if she were writing an essay on American history (I realise such essays would be far down the line but you get my drift).

    Ciao for now

    Bonne Maman

  3. SmashedPea,
    Thanks for your presence and interest here. It's nice to hear from you again! Nothing like feeling a connection not only to others in this language process, but someone who shares the same language, too! I don't know if we'll 'create' a sibling for Kaya, but I'd imagine if we did, the two of them would spend most of their relationship in English until we spend a greater amount of time in a country where English isn't the community language.

    I'm glad to hear that my timing was good. =) As I implied, I've had some sort of a block to writing lately...partly because of time and priorities, but in part, too, because I tend to focus on style and if I'm not in the mood, and don't think I can crank out something that I'm proud of, I won't write. It's kind of a bummer, this box I've put myself in...but battle at a time, right? (my identity tells me that I'm right: if I focus on my form, I will attract readers and even succeed in lifting their spirits as others do mine!)
    So, now to your questions...
    My current plan or idea, rather, is this: put Kaya in the German co-op pre-school for at least a year, if not two. That's important to me so that she can hear others (in a more formal setting than our playgroups) speaking German to her. It's important, I think, that she conceptualize that German is a real language, not just something mama speaks with her and a few others.
    At this point, I toy with the idea of starting Kaya with Spanish when she's 4 or 5. There is a local public immersion program (90/10) here that is supposed to be really good. I hear it's easier to get in if I start her in Pre-K, so if I go visit and like the program, I might consider doing that. My stepmom is Ecuadorian, we have family there and, as I recently discovered, an apt. that we can stay in for as long as we want. I'm really passionate about trilingualism for her (as I know Spanish, too and my husband wants to learn it), and from what I understand, 4-6 or 5-7 is the last 'official' language window for the brain (not to imply that you can't learn them later, as I did...just that the brain is most primed during three phases, 4-6 or 5-7 being the last...can't remember which).
    The other question is hard for me to answer right now. I, too, have thought about these things, but I find that they overwhelm and freak me out because there are so many unknowns. I have found that things go a lot smoother for me and Kaya (and Geoff!) when I focus on right now, and remind myself that, at that point, I will have more information that will allow me to make a more solid decision then. I did like reading that Douglas had his rules, and that one of them was with homework help...I like that. But at the same time, I have confidence that I will keep improving my German abilities as Kaya improves hers, so by that point, maybe what seems complex to me now won't seem so complex then?

    Whadya think?
    (would still love that photo on email, if you're willing!)

  4. Never forget the bond that you have created between you and Kaya. :-)

  5. Tamara

    It's great that you have the option of the German co-op school for Kaya and that sounds to me like a sound plan. I think as I am going around and around in circles in my own head with regards the whole schooling issue it's hard for me to say anything more of much use to you right now. I need to sit down, get my thoughts in order and then get back to you.... I did have a long chat with my own mum about the issue today and she suggested I may be over thinking the issue and trying to plan too far ahead and that perhaps (like you) I should deal with the issues as and when they arise as i will no doubt be better prepared by then.

    As for the photo - yes of course i'm still happy to send it over - can you let me have your email address as i cant find it anywhere on your site.

    Am off to ruminate for a while.

    Speak more soon :-)


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