Many expats believe that they will be able to manage the development of their native language in their children when they move abroad. So what happens when it finally dawns on an expat mother… my child isn’t becoming the bilingual child I had hoped (No English!, NYTimes.com) and is really only learning the language of my destination country:
It struck me: my son, born in Plantation, Fla., but raised in Madrid from the age of 1, is a bona fide Spaniard. He’s chosen his soccer team (Real Madrid). He attends a Spanish school. His cusses are those of any good Spaniard worth his linguistic salt. The prophecies of friends and relatives back in the United States, uttered gravely over the years, were becoming true: If I didn’t immerse my son in my native tongue, Spanish would forever be his dominant language and English, half-starved and scratching at a closed neural door, would remain dimly secondary.
I love the writer’s (the Mom’s!) conclusion to not get so caught up in the stress of “having to” have a child who is bilingual. If the parents feel that pressure, you can bet that the child also feels the pressure. That is a recipe for a child that will push back, and it reads like that’s exactly what the child is or was doing.
Almost all parents often want their child to develop in a certain way or embrace an activity or a sport. And some children will readily head in that direction. Others, however, need their space and will not be pressured into doing something in which they have no interest. In short, don’t feel like there’s a one-size-fits-all solution. A parent needs to read their child and make an informed choice as to what will be best for that individual.