Friday, 12 June 2015

We Said Hello to Basel 10 Months Ago

I haven't spoken classical Arabic in ages. Today I did, and of all people, with a Scot!

This dad from school speaks classical Arabic (fus'ha) fluently. I felt all rusty when I conversed with him!

We moved to the area 10 months ago, and I can honestly say it's a great place for our family: yesterday I shopped in Germany, today I nipped to France, we speak English with our neighbours, the girls speak German at school and are exposed to Swiss on a daily basis.

BK2 (age 7) is in a music class, and today they gave a concert in a local tram station. The children sang in Swiss, German, English, Amharic and Spanish.

I think our life can hardly be more multicultural/multilingual than it is currently!

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

BabelKid 4 is Here!

And it's a girl! She arrived on the 5th of February, and is being adored by her sisters.

Number trivia

BK4 is:
Our fourth child and daughter
My third home birth after a Caesarean (hbac)
My second water birth
My first birth in Switzerland

Birth in Switzerland, a multilingual affair

Like many people in the area, my midwife speaks four languages: Swiss German, High German (Hoch Deutsch), French and English. So for the first time, I was able to communicate with my midwife in a native language. 

As it turned out, I found myself saying some things in English during the birth, mantras I learned to help me through labour like "Let my monkey do it" or "My body's not a lemon", or simply invoking the Lord. Both the midwife and the BabelDad seemed surprised that I would speak in English while in the throes of labour.

Maybe instead of asking what languages multilingual women dream in, we should ask them what languages they labour in. We may be surprised by the results!

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

What's in a Name?

A lot, particularly when your parents come from two completely different cultures and backgrounds.

We are expecting our fourth child February time. Yep, we look forward to being blessed with a fourth BabelKid in a month or so.

What we don't enjoy is the search for a name. Our quest is complicated further by an indecisive mother and a name-giving-phobic father. BabelDad had so much trouble naming his cat that the latter was forever known as Kater!

So, instead of leaving it to BabelDad, and ending up with Baby, Junge or Mädchen as a name for our child, I am perusing various websites and books. looking for a more socially acceptable alternative.

Many parents agree that naming a boy is somewhat more challenging than deciding on a name for a girl. So imagine how hard it must be for us, having already exhausted our girls' list three times already!

I trust we will find a name, hopefully in time. We were spoilt in the UK, as parents usually have up to 6 weeks before registering the birth of their offspring, as opposed to 3 days in Switzerland!

Sunday, 4 January 2015


The Babelkids only ever learned German because we tried to be an OPOL family. I spoke German with them in an environment that was otherwise very English and had Arabic and French sprinkled in. Exposure to a language via the breadwinner is always problematic, I guess.

So when they speak German, they code-switch a lot. They use English words, often with German grammar.

Today on Google+, I came across this thought experiment by Jakub Marian: "Germanish". As he puts it: "Just as a funny mental exercise, I wanted to try to see what English would look like if it used German grammar, but with English vocabulary preserved as much as possible. The result is a constructed language which I call Germanish.ust as a funny mental exercise, I wanted to try to see what English would look like if it used German grammar, but with English vocabulary preserved as much as possible. The result is a constructed language which I call Germanishust as a funny mental exercise, I wanted to try to see what English would look like if it used German grammar, but with English vocabulary preserved as much as possible. The result is a constructed language which I call Germanish"

This is actually very close to how my kids speak at times, especially BK3.


Thursday, 1 January 2015

2014: Year of Change

As we bid farwell to 2014 and welcome 2015, I, like the rest of the wolrd reminesce on what happened last year, and wonder what (hopefully good) things the new year will bring.

2014 was a year of massive change for our family. When it started, never did we suspect it would mean:

  • New job for BabelDad.
  • New job for me.
  • New country, language, culture in the landlocked, yet huge melting pot, island that is Switzerland.
  • Saying goodbye to dear friends that we made these last ten years in the North of England.
  • Saying goodbye to our lovely house.
  • Saying goodbye to our dream of going back to the South of France.
  • Getting one sea nearer our families.
  • And last but not least, new pregnancy with BK4 expected in February this year.

So here's to warm memories and new adventures!

Happy new year! Bonne année! Gutes Neues Jahr! عام سعيد

Friday, 3 October 2014

1st Eid in Switzerland

Tomorrow is Eid El Adha. If we were in Algeria, we'd be having a nice meal, probably a roast chicken prepared by mum, as we don't usually slaughter a lamb in my family. We did it a few times when my sister and I were little. But since we left home some twenty years ago, my parents have never seen the sense in buying and slaughtering a whole lamb for just the two of them.

Over the years, I've managed many times to spend Eid El Fitr with my parents (the one celebrating the end of Ramadan) but never Eid El Adha. It's never had the same importance for our family.

This year it's taken me by surprise. Freshly arrived in a new country, with a ton of things to do and great adjustments to make, I've been caught short and hadn't realised the imminence of Eid. Now we won't even be able to celebrate as a family, since BabelDad planned a day trip in Germany for BK2 and himself to hear Buzz Aldrin talk about the moon and Mars.

Had we been in Manchester, we'd have spent a good part of the day with our Algerian friends, celebrating. Instead, this year, I'll be entertaining two children and resenting the fact there is no one to celebrate with.

This immigrating stuff is still hard, fifteen years down the line... But then I go on the terrace, and look to my right. Life is good.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

From Switzerland, with Love

So, we are in Basel.

We arrived a month ago, and it's been a whirlwind of changes. First saying goodbye to my parents after a 7-week stay in Algiers. Then joining the BabelDad after such a long separation, in a dodgy B&B, plus BK1 and BK2 starting school two days later in a new country with a totally unkown language.

One month later, and here we are in our apartment, sleeping in our own beds. The older two girls are happily settled at school and seem to enjoy their new life. Sure, some things bother them. BK1 (aged 9) is not keen on the daily homework and the constant threat of getting the loathed cross on her behaviour chart (must show the teachers a copy of Alfie Kohn's Punished by Rewards). BK2 (aged 6) complains that the work is too easy: they are doing phonics at school, which she did in England 2 years ago.

But overall, the girls absolutely love the freedom they have here. They walk to school by themselves, a mile away, sometimes 4 times a day, crossing a main road in the process! My poor nerves!
I don't have to arrange play dates for them, they simply ask if they can go to play at so and so's place, and just go. All three girls have been spending so much time outside with other kids of the neighbourhood, scooting, cycling, climbing trees, fighting, screaming, roller-blading etc.

I feel this independence and freedom is beneficial to all of us. It relieves us, the parents, from the school run pressure. It also teaches the children self-reliance. For example, they prefer to do their homework soon after lunch so they can go off freely to play.

We miss our friends back in England. We miss the familiarity and the sense of belonging we had there. We are however enjoying our new adventure and looking forward to all the new things it brings!

View from our terrace: white specks are storks!