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?
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.