Friday, 10 January 2014

Why I Don't Want My Three-Year old Child to Learn English

BK3 turned three in November, and it's official: she does not want to go to preschool.

We tried her off at one a few months ago, two mornings a week. It was an utter failure. The setting was too large with too many children. She was uneasy from the first day, but I still left her there in the hope she would take to it. I never left her crying, despite the "encouragements" from the well-meaning carers. She perceived the pressure for me to leave as me abandoning her, and decided she did not want to go anymore.

The result is that she is with me at home for the foreseeable future. I think it is a good thing in a way. Staying home with me will delay the English tide, that will undoubtedly swamp her other three languages when she starts school in one and a half year.

What of her learning English before starting school though? She can currently express herself reasonably well in English, even mixing English words when speaking with her dad or me. However, I do find myself wondering about the effect that lack of continued interaction with English speakers will have on her future linguistic abilities in English.

Then I think back to when I was a child. My parents spoke Kabyle as their mother tongue, and only learnt Arabic well into their teenage years, even adulthood. Many of my cousins and friends spoke only Kabyle at home, having a limited grasp of Arabic when they started school aged six. They all learnt Arabic without any difficulties as it was the majority language at school and outside the home. Many went on to learn French, and even English during their primary and secondary school years. One such example is my close friend N. Her mother tongue remains Kabyle, which she uses to talk to her parents and family. She is raising her own children trilingual in Arabic, French and English.

There could be many reasons why I would want BK3 to go to preschool; learning English may be the last one on the list. That is if it makes the list.