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Friday, 21 January 2011

Which language where?

Following on from my last post, I've been thinking more about which language I'm comfortable speaking where. It occured to me that living in an area with a large multinational community (due to a big UN presence and a number of major international firms having their European headquarters in the city) makes life a lot easier. 

For example, until recently we thought we were going to move to the UK last year. I had already started thinking about what this would mean for us language-wise. I came to the conclusion that we would probably drop the French altogether and focus on making sure that the children's German was really up to scratch, seeing as we have no family or cultural connection with French-speaking areas (other than currently living in one). And as their English would be secured by living in an English-speaking environment, I figured we would make German our home language, meaning I would speak to the children in German (instead of English like I do now). 

But then I had to imagine myself standing in a playground in a suburb of Manchester screaming at Leonard "Hoer auf, dem Jungen Sand ins Gesicht zu werfen!" (Stop throwing sand in that boy's face!), and suddenly I felt less at ease with the idea. It was bad enough with German, knowing how rampant a mostly playful Teutonophobia is in the UK, but then I thought, what if you were speaking a language which is associated with immigrants? And I recalled the experience of an Asian acquaintance recently arrived in the Greater Manchester area whose family had had to deal with abuse being shouted at them as they chatted in the street. Advertising the fact that you are different to the majority culture is not always a safe strategy.

So much as it is sometimes a challenge to raise the children trilingually and in my every day life to deal with things in three languages, I have to remember to count my blessings and be grateful that we're doing it here where it's not so unusual to be a polyglot.   

1 comment:

  1. Heh, I can relate to that - not the moving to the UK part, but the speaking another language part :) I, too, feel really lucky to live in a place where everyone, well almost, or their parents or grandparents are from some other place and where you frequently hear other languages spoken in public without anyone batting an eyelash. Yet sometimes I still feel compelled to speak to the kids in English (especially when they've landed in hot water for something), so the other parents know what's going on.... I'm trying to get over that, but it's not so easy sometimes.

    Anyway, glad to have found your blog - I'll be back :)


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