Friday, 13 November 2009

Secret Language (or the lack thereof)

There is a negative aspect to raising your children multilingually that is mostly overlooked. Today I want to finally bring this aspect to light. It has been neglected for too long! Now is the time to bring it up, whatever the consequences.

Don't get me wrong: I am all for multilingual children and I would not raise my children any other way. I adore their capabilities. I envy them for this gift.

Still, this one thing will always be there, and it will strike when you least need it!

So what is this terrible secret, this issue nobody dares to mention? It's simple: In multilingual families, parents have no secret language.

No way for the parents to talk about something secretly in front of the children. We can not just switch to another language and discuss, they will always understand! No matter how hard we try to say things in a complicated way or mixing words or using obscure grammar: they will crack the code and push us further out into the realm of "creative talking."

Say BK1 wants a cookie. I don't know whether she has had one already or whether anything else has happened that would lead to a "No" here. So I desperately try to read BMs body language. Does she look negative? What do her eyes say? Was that the "no way" stare? Or was it the "whatever..." gesture? Did she just sigh?

It usually comes down to one of us signaling the other one "you decide." Wouldn't it be nice to be able to actually talk about it right then?

And then again: maybe that's not too bad. It forces us to be open and honest with the kids, which I think might help them develop strong values.