13 May 2009

On bilingualism, the beginning of the end?

Lately, there are lots of times when A1 speaks English to me when though I have addressed him in Vietnamese. And he speaks English to A2 unless I intervene. In fact, he even speaks English to himself! He narrates his play in English and speaks to his beloved Froggy in English. And I'm starting to detect very distinct pauses when he speaks in Vietnamese, as if he's struggling to find the necessary words to complete his sentence.
towel boys

While I don't necessarily see having Vietnamese language skills as functionally beneficial in terms of employment prospects in the future, I do recognize the cognitive benefits of any second language. And of course, there are bits of cultural knowledge that are embedded within one's native tongue that cannot be translated. There's certainly more than sufficient justification to maintain our bilingual household, but I feel like such a nag reminding him to speak Vietnamese to me all the time.

(Yes, it's made entirely of tiny Lego blocks and no, these photos have nothing to do with this post.)


H F W said...

Keep reminding!If you do it with encouragement it won't come across as nagging, and he will be really grateful when he's older.

attorneymama said...

That is tough, because I imagine that when he begins school full time (are you homeschooling?) he will slip even more firmly into english. I think it will help him that your parents also speak to him in Vietnamese, so even if you transition more to english at home he won't lose it completely. KWIM?

Michelle said...

I'm in the "remind him!!" camp as well. This is similar to what happened to me around his age. A lot of kids I know have a half-duplex tpe of bilingualism -- they can understand but can't speak because they weren't encouraged to. It may feel like nagging but I agree, he'll be grateful for it when he is older.

Ivan Chan Studio said...

Bilingualism is hard, especially in a biracial household, I would think.

We only spoke Chinese inside the home, but both of my parents spoke it (and then there were the dire consequences if we didn't comply). We were also sent to Chinese school, but I think that was more detrimental!

It's tough. I'm sorry you feel like you're nagging him. Does he speak VN with your parents when you guys visit?

Kristen said...

I NEVER spoke to my mom in spanish growing up. Just keep talking, it'll stick. She never "made" me speak it, I always responded in english. I was a stubborn little brat... lol My spanish is great :)

LH said...

HyFi (and yes, I do love giving you nicknames!), I like your spin!

attymama, DH & I had always talked about homeschooling even before kids, but I don't think it would suit A1's personality.

Michelle, what's the story w/ TLE? I know there's no VN, but will there be Tagalog?

I, the thought of speaking English w/ my elders terrifies me and is strange and well...foreign. I always seemed so disrespectful. I guess times and generational status, not to mention biracial households, really shift paradigms.

Kristen, you're awesome and one of the most well-adjusted mixed race adults I've ever met. If my boys end up as happy with their identity as you, I will consider myself totally lucky!

Michelle said...

Poor TLE has had very little exposure to Tagalog. My parents only speak Tagalog to each other and their friends but never to my sister and I. I was hoping that they'd speak some to TLE but it has only been a few phrases here and there. :( Long wants me to teach TLE Japanese (since I actually spoke/read that well when I was using it) but at this rate, poor TLE will be monolingual.

LH said...

Michelle, what about sign language?

Kristen said...

You are too kind!! <3