HEARING DOUBLE | post by Anja Mari

A story about a boy whose parents did not speak the same language

It is not true, my husband and I speak the same language, the language of love, just kidding, scratch that off, of course I am not that cheesy. We do come from different countries, we live and breathe and think in two different languages, naturally. Of course one of us had to conform and communicate in code known to the other, well, naturally, in order for this whole thing to even begin to work, but we both identify with two different language worlds, 12 years later. I was raised in Poland, Polish runs in my blood, and in my DNA. At this point I am not sure which language, English or Polish I think, dream or fantasize in, seriously, I don’t even believe that is done in any language other than our own, in a nonlinguistic sense, but that is a topic for a different blog post, and probably for a person with a different expertise.

So where am I going with all this? Well, onto the fact that I chose to speak only Polish to my children. Despite everything I wrote earlier, or because of it. I practiced on my cat first, not even kidding this time. Our cat, Sawa, responds perfectly to commands given in polish, probably even quicker than to the ones given in English. I am usually the mean one telling her “no” or “NIE!” – in Polish - and it works, seems more effective. She also didn’t go mad or insane hearing two languages all the time, so I figured Simon would not either. 

I have not read any books on raising bilingual children, as I tried not to overanalyze the issue, I decided it will work itself out, that it had to… and here we are, I am speaking exclusively Polish to Simon, even around his dad, even around other people. He does hear me speak English to others, therefore he knows I understand it, and also I presume it is why he speaks mostly English back to me. He does have a few staple Polish verbs and adjectives (I noticed a lack of to many nouns, I wonder if it is a scientific finding?!) that he mixes into his English statements. But his English is much stronger. I think for him it is more natural, since he is surrounded by it, so I try not to blame myself  nor expect - like some people suggested - that “a child will speak the language of its mother”, or maybe I am a bad mother? Just kidding, who would try to ever imply that onto any mother, like ever?

Overall, his mixing and language DJing is a bit confusing, which makes me the person that understands him best, I do win here and I wear that as a badge of honor. For now, I can tell that I have created a mess in his head, for now I see that my Polish questions make him less robust in his answers, I see the struggle in his face, with a bit of a confused effort to communicate, as if he knew he should be saying something else, but he doesn’t know how yet. For now, I see that I make it harder for him, sometimes much more than it needs to be, it scares me but it also makes me proud. I catch myself feeling fearful to push the Polish, because I want to applaud his beautifully built sentence in English, but I know I have to stick to my guns, maybe even more aptly than I am now. It is going to work, it has to, I said it before…

I don’t know any scientific statistics, nor parenting philosophies of raising geniuses, I am not here to give advice or tips, or preach how much better his brain will grow… I am not a big believer in schooling children from the early age and throwing crazy amounts of knowledge at them, especially that of foreign languages… I simply just hope it is for his benefit, that he will be richer, because of it and that is all that matters to me.

The books that we do enjoy reading and it feels like they benefit him in both English and Polish are following:

English: Dr Seuss always and ever, we can recite lines from it, he requests it from my husband the most often, even Hugless Douglas loses with Dr. Seuss.

Polish and English: we got a few books in both English and Polish, so he knows the stories in both languages, our recent find of Benny series by Barbro Lindgren was a definite hit.
Polish: one of my dear friends gifted me books from Poland, the series of Julek i Julka, by Annie Schmidt. I love reading them, they are witty! Also the lack of illustration builds his imagination and vocabulary. 


Anja is wearing: Zara pants, Zoe Karssen  sweatshirt via ASOS
Simon is wearing: PopKidsUSA shirt and HM for All Children UNICEF pants
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