So I’m very fortunate that my daughter is growing up in a bilingual environment. My husband and I are both first generation Greeks. We try to speak in the Greek language as much as we can but also are aware of the fact that we live in an English speaking country. At the beginning I was only speaking Greek to her but when I realized that perhaps she was behind her ‘friends’ with certain words I kicked it into gear with the English. Regardless of this I’m amazed at what sponges these kids are. Every morning when I go in to get the kid I say to her Καλημέρα αγάπη μου (Good morning my love). Sometimes she laughs at me, sometimes she says hi mama, sometimes she just asks for daddy, it depends on her mood. Regardless that is my go-to greeting. This morning as we were sitting there she looks up at me and says τι κάνεις μαμά (how are you mom/what are you doing mom). I replied that I was καλά (or good). If you are fortunate enough to speak a second language or a third language speak to your children in it. If you have the opportunity to send them to learn another language do it! Now is the time for these kids to pick up on the little nuances of the particular language. My goal was to have my child speak Greek as well as I do, if not better and without the accent of an Αμερικανακή, I’m proud to say we’re well on our way!
Well as we embark on yet another month of growth so expands my little one’s tongue. The Greeks have a saying that translates to something like, ‘her tongue is ready to be untied,’ meaning she’s getting closer and closer to being able to form many full words (in both Greek and English) and small sentences. I’ve mentioned before that we’re bringing her up in a bilingual household. We both speak Greek so it obviously makes it easier. She herself can be found switching from the Wiggles to the Zouzounakia on YouTube. It’s amazing to see her begin to switch between the two languages. Truly I wish we spoke more languages so I can immerse her in more. Although she is getting a touch of Spanish in her Salsa class that we participate in once a week.
It is funny to see people’s reactions when she gets on a roll and is talking. You can tell they are trying so hard to understand her. Of course it isn’t always easy. Being with her for a good chunk of the day I can say that I’m well versed in her language and can pull out the important words to help others, especially when she’s talking in Greek words to a non Greek. 🙂 The biggest thing this has taught us is patience. It is so easy as a parent to get frustrated because your child is still too young to fully be able to communicate to you in a way in which you’d like. Remember lesson #1 they are only this young once. Lesson #2 once they get going there is no way to stop them. I had an acquaintance tell me yesterday her son doesn’t stop talking. He’s always asking questions, interrupting, etc. So in short be careful what you wish for. Lesson #3 make sure you’re teaching them the words. Are you sitting down with them reviewing picture books so they can associate? Are you asking them questions and talking to them consistently. And the most important lesson #4 be patient. Remember you know the words and what you want them to say but they are still trying to figure it all out. I know my little one’s brain is on overload when I hear her falling asleep to, “no Peppa Pig,” and waking up to, “Greg lives down the street.” Now we don’t watch Peppa Pig in our house and the only Greg(s) we know live either a town or a country away, so I’m not sure where she picked that up. I know this is a whole new adventure for us both and I’m just happy to be along with her for the ride.
There are so many funny nuances that you encounter when you’re growing up Greek in America, or in the case of my little one, Growing up Greek in Canada. From before she was born hubby and I decided that it was important for our child to grow up Greek. Now I know many people who have raised ‘Greek’ children and they can barely say ‘kahlihmehrra’. I’m not interested in that. I want my child to say καλημέρα and know where the accent should even go. The language, the customs, the traditions, this is what it means to be Greek. Celebrating your ονομαστική γιορτή (nameday), celebrating Greek Independence Day by going to the Danforth for the parade in her βασίλισσα αμαλία outfit, celebrating the Ἐπιτάφιο service on Good Friday and the Eσπερινός Αγάπης on Easter Sunday are all events I look forward to attending with the little Miss for years to come. They wouldn’t be something we think twice about attending.
One of these nuances we’ve encountered is language. We have decided to speak Greek in our home along with English. We know that we won’t have any other chance as the current one presented to us to be able to fill her brain with all of the wonders of language. Saying that you often wonder can it ever hurt? One example is we were playing with some of her friends the other day and the patty cakes came up in the conversation. Of course as soon as it was said the other children began to clap and smile. Little miss just sat there unsure as to what the excitement was all about. When I explained to her to do Παλαμάκι she started clapping and smiling like everyone else. It wasn’t until that moment that I started to think about the effects of “Growing up Greek.” Would she have a more difficult time later on when she had to focus more on English? Would it be harder for her to communicate with others? The more I think about it the less I’m going to sweat it. Hubby and I are both educated individuals who at least will be able to help her with her spelling words in JK, SK and grade 1 🙂
If you want to check out our favourites the Zouzounakia doing Παλαμάκι, click the link here.