So as I sit here and type I am trying to figure out the best way to continue the Greek language with the kid. Obviously I want to make sure she can communicate with her grandparents and family members in Greece. I try to think back about my upbringing and I can remember being in first grade doing spelling words with my tenant because my parents couldn’t help me. Thinking back to that moment, I’m sure I’m not the only first generation American/Canadian/Australian who was in that boat. Our parents immigrated to other countries so that we would have ‘a better life,’ which really meant more opportunities. Greek was my first language and I do believe it helped me learn English. I don’t want to have a Mr. Portokalis moment alla My Big Fat Greek Wedding but the root word of many words is in fact Greek. Saying all that how did my parents know how much to push me to make sure I learned Greet to not sound like an EllinoAmerikanaki and in my daughter’s case to have her not sound like an EllinoAmeriKanadezaki. Yes I totally made that word up but if you’re Greek, you get my point. I don’t want her to have that accent. I don’t want people in Greece to think of her being any less Greek because she wasn’t born there. A difficult thing for me to grasp is why so many programs and Greek Schools start at a later age. Most language is grasped in the first two to three years so why wait until the child is four or five years old? Would it make sense to come up with a curriculum that is play/song based to get our little ones going?
So help me out parents, at what age did you put your child in a Greek program? At what age did see your child engage with their Greek friends/family members in Greek? Do you think we should be doing more, earlier?
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.