A Note to the Migrating Mommy
Before arriving in Australia, most of my daughter’s growing up years was spent in the USA . I distinctly remember that when I would be busy in some household chores , she could be usually seen with a device watching her favorite shows which is quiet the norm today among kids. Somehow they know their way around these devious little gadgets. She was busy watching shows like Barney , Super Why or Dora. All these shows according to me are great for preschoolers. However Barney is a favorite, oozing loads of warmth and teaching some basic values as well like caring sharing and the likes . Somehow when we were going back to India dd had managed to pick up some impressive hold over the language.
However the trouble began 3 months into her Montessori school in India. One fine day my daughter from being a talkative girl began stuttering. There was barely a word she could coax out without stammering and stuttering and often times in confusion coming to a halt. My poor little girl who would usually be seen speaking nineteen to the dozen had gone from stammering to mostly quiet. Perhaps it was a loud resounding alarm that something had gone terribly wrong with her. As a parent it was really difficult for me to stomach that something that I had never suspected for three years of her life was about to become a grave reality in her life; perhaps the speech impediment was meant to stay.
Finally I decided to consult a doctor. However I was going to first discuss this with the teacher first. Who else would know it any better? However it was this meeting which wizened me up a bit when she reasoned – “…Your daughter has just happened to move from one country to another. It must have been a bit taxing for the little mind; not to forget that you have changed homes here as well. Please allow her some time to settle down and she might come around…”. Give her time? I did. In five months time my smooth talking daughter was back and how! Well she had picked up some Hindi as well. However she had lost some of her proficiency in English. Well, actually a lot!
However to settle down? Life did not give us a chance. Having spent less than a year over there we moved to newer turfs. Now the need of the hour was English otherwise how else would she settle down in the new educational institution and her barely there language skills were not going to help. But obviously she was a little lost. She mostly kept to herself from what I learnt.
How many times as a parent have we made a big deal as parents about ensuring that our child grows up to be fluent speakers of the English language? Well it is a big deal considering that in a mixed group a child if unable to express themselves will find it hard to adjust.
Well as most parents who have migrated are usually bilingual. Sometimes they are really concerned as to whether their children will be able to learn to speak in the English language or not. At times they furiously work over it trying to bridge the gap by taking steps like
- Starting to speak to them in English even at home
- Buying and constantly bombarding them them with books and audios in English language
- Completely neglecting and often times brushing under the carpet the vernacular
- Getting too worked up whether their kids will be able to pick up the language or not.
If as a parent you see the third option happening , it is a serious concern. The reason being that being in a country where the main language of communication is English, chances are likely for them to pick up the language sooner than you think and the schools will always work upon it! Alas what they might not develop richly is in the vernacular unless you are not neglecting it.
This reminds me of a certain neighbor from Africa who once told when she had migrated , after putting her children in school she had taken great measures to ensure her children could speak English. Without proper family network however they lost touch with their native language Yoruba, as a result of which they were unable to communicate with their grandparents fluently who were not conversant in the English language, whenever they were visiting which is a little sad if you come to think of it!
From my personal experience here in Australia I can say that most pre- schools encourage learning and preservation of vernaculars which do so with the help of nursery rhymes, songs, alphabet coloring and so on. I recently happened to visit a pre-school where a Chinese educator was teaching children a few nursery rhymes in mandarin , not to forget making them familiar with words in Mandarin with the help of stories , pictures, miniature models and toys in between the regular curriculum. It must surely be aiding the children from China in learning their vernacular. As for the non-Chinese children it surely did not harm them considering children have the ability to learn at least 5 languages till the age of 5 years. It is a global world after all.
Speaking good English surely comes from practice and a mixture of a few varied factors. It does not have to be anyone’s first language from what I know of. Or a certain other person who I know of here. Years ago she too migrated to Australia like me and from what she said she did not know a word of English . However the person that I know now speaks English fluently so it made me wonder . However she is an ardent reader and is never away from books from what I have seen. Well she is today also a teacher in a reputed institution here , where the only language of communication is English. This actually involves all the 4 E’s of speaking fluent English I mentioned in my previous blog. How about we draw our own conclusions here?
As for my daughter she is doing fine in school, I do not try teaching her English anymore. It is usually the other way round-
Dd-Make a wish and get a surprise! (holding a box to me)
Me-(a little confused) Well I am not so familiar with this game so how about you make a wish for me!
Dd-OK, I wish for unicorns and rainbows..
Me-Do you know about Unicorns?
Dd-Unicorns are magical horses who if you see will put a spell on top of you, they have a rainbow on their tail and can give you anything that you want and they are very beautiful if you see them, they have a horn on their head and are a pretty white in color..blah..blah..blah... Well it never quiet ends once my dd starts with her various educating sessions. As for me I think I will let her be and any kind of unnecessary pressure can go take a hike!