diapers, budgets & paint

stay-at-home mommy by day
program manager by night
children's painter somewhere in between

the job is well done*

here's a question for all you mommies (and daddies) out there:

if you're part of a mixed ethnicity parenting team, do you intend to teach your child(ren) both languages (or have you, if your kids are older)?

we've been debating this question since before em was em. i speak a small amount of korean, mostly simple vocabulary words, foods and such, and can sound out the characters if you give me long enough. (sadly, i only managed to take one semester of korean 101 in college - but hey, i already knew the lyrics to san-tokki!) blair obviously knows much more than i do - he was raised in a household where his folks always spoke korean (and still do) and has had the benefit (curse?) of spending many years in weekend korean school. he and his cousins, however, always choose to respond to their family in english - that seems to be the routine in many first/second generation households that i've seen. since neither of us are really equipped to pass along the language, should we? do we try to find a local korean school / teacher to help us in this quest (maybe one that would let me attend too?) or do we wait until em inevitably picks up spanish or chinese in the school system? obviously we understand the benefits of sharing one's heritage, but as future generations move further away from their original foreign language speakers and potentially mix in more languages / cultures, what's the "magic" answer? what has worked for you?

* taken from tonight's fortune cookie... but what job? perhaps you mean a steak instead? and really, why does our neighborhood vietnamese eatery insist on giving out these "chinese" cookies anyway?

13 Responses to “the job is well done*”

  1. # Blogger halfmama

    We struggle with this too. My Korean is very limited, unfortunately. My husband would be very happy to have them learn Korean (he sings them san-tokki every night before bed), as would I. My sister speaks Korean to them when she sees them and they completely understand her, which is so crazy to me. But I also remember attending Hagwon and really hating it. Maybe if I can get the kids in early enough, they will learn to love it (said like a true Korean parent. :)

    I also struggle with the idea that it's hypocritical since they would learn and not be able to speak it at home. So my husband and I wonder if we should find classes for us too.

    ?? I don't know. I'm curious to see what others say.  

  2. # Blogger Rachel

    I really wanted my daughter to be bilingual, and my husband speaks Korean well enough (he even worked as a translator for a while) but he just refuses to speak Korean to her. She does hear it once a week when she goes to her Halmoni's apartment. We've also let her watch Korean TV, but she didn't like it as much as Dora or Sesame Street. Recently I bought some kids' books in Korean and she has learned how to count to ten. She says "ppo ppo" for kiss and she knows some food words. That's about it. I hope to send her to Korean school when she's a little older. I wish there were a Korean equivalent for Dora. Good luck!  

  3. # Blogger iso.bot

    I wish my parents had introduced multiple languages to me when I was younger. I'm always jealous of people who were raised in multi-lingual households. Even if it's not a heritage thing, being able to communicate in a variety of languages is such a treasure.

    As you know, I wasn't exactly raised in an area that encouraged diversity. I'm so glad for Emmy that she won't have that experience.  

  4. # Blogger honglien123

    I originally had the unrealistic notion that maybe, just maybe, my kids would be able to speak four languages. Unfortunately, my hubby only speaks English (heck, I speak more Korean than he does and I only know 4 words) and the only person in the family who speaks Korean or Japanese is his grandma...whom we don't see nearly often enough. SO...goals have been realigned. Unfortunately, because J's family is more Japanese than Korean, I'm dropping the language expectations and hoping the kids might have an interest later in life where they explore classes on their own. Their Japanese exposure is now limited to the occasional anime or Miyazaki movie and the Vietnamese they are learning from being around my parents who only speak to them in Viet along with my repeating things to them in Viet whenever I want talk to them. If they learn any language outside of English it will be Vietnamese because all of my family can still speak and read it.

    It's hard to keep up with the language lessons when neither parent can speak the language. We, well I, try to balance this with food. We eat a lot of Japanese-American and Korean food and I try to tell the kids that they are more than just American. We also go to festivals and things like that. It's not much, but it's the best we can do right now given time and personal knowledge constraints.  

  5. # Anonymous Lori

    We talked a lot about this. I want MM to be bilingual, but the truth is that my Japanese is a lot better than M.'s, all appearances aside, and I just feel weird speaking it to her. I can do it sometimes, but not all the time - I feel like I'm missing a part of myself and the way she and I communicate if it's all in Japanese.

    And then there's the problem, right now, that when I do speak it with her, she immediately says "no."

    So what we have been doing is making sure she can at least get an ear for the language - we both watch Japanese TV, I play Japanese childrens' CDs, and we both use some words in Japanese regularly. She has a few Japanese picture books that I read to her - that kind of thing. My own experience living in Hong Kong was that, even though I never really learned Cantonese beyond a few choice phrases, I have more of an ear for it than if I had never lived there. When I'm watching Hong Kong movies or listening to Cantonese radio online, I can pick out words and it doesn't all sound like gibberish to me, even though I understand very, very little. I'm hoping that if she can at least become used to the way it sounds, it might help her should she want to learn it later on.

    Beyond that, I set up a Japanese playgroup once a week; all the women speak some English, so when Molly hits them up for food they understand her, but we all talk in Japanese. I kind of hope that seeing Mommy speaking in Japanese with other people might pique her interest...

    Korean is pretty much out of the question, though. I don't know any, M. only knows words like "aigu!", and even his mom - who's in California anyway - only ever speaks it with her siblings; otherwise, she mostly speaks Japanese. And Chinese is out for now; personally, I'd love her to learn Mandarin, but my own Mandarin is pretty elementary and I'm not going to inflict it on her.  

  6. # Blogger kim

    Thanks for all the feedback so far - it's nice to know that we're in a similar boat as many of you.

    Lori, don't you live in the DC area too? How did you find / create your Japanese playgroup?  

  7. # Anonymous Lori

    There's an organization in Annandale called the Japanese-American's Care Fund - I think it originated out of some domestic violence and senior citizen issues that had arisen in the permanent Japanese/J-A community in VA, but now they do some different activities for the community. They have a mailing list that I'm on, and since they're good about passing along ML requests from members, I just sent them an email for them to send out asking if there were any other parents in the area who were interested in getting together for a Japanese playgroup. I heard back from four mothers - one seems to have disappeared - and we got together a couple of weeks ago. It went well, and we'll be meeting again this week as well.

    It's probably my own bias, but I kind of wanted to focus on families who are here for the duration - however long that may be - rather than expat families, since the expat community tends to have a different dynamic. The Japanese women/families who are here for the forseeable future tend to have similar issues of inclusion, language acquisition, etc. Expat families generally seem to have a strong sense of it all being temporary, and they're consequently not quite as concerned with the same kinds of issues (they have their own, of course) as I am.

    If you want to talk about it more, feel free to email me at xilerui [at] hotmail.com!  

  8. # Blogger Angela

    Still trying to find a Korean tutor for my kids, still procrastinating!! I don't speak Korean very well and was taking some classes last year-however, life got very complicated and busy and that got put on hold. I hope to start them back up in Sept.

    I know I should try and speak to my kids, but my accent is not that great and I wonder if I would do more harm than good.  

  9. # Blogger creative-type dad

    I wish the wife and I could speak some other language fluently.
    The wife use to live in France, but has pretty much forgotten most of it.

    We need a robot.  

  10. # Anonymous Mama Nabi

    Ah, yes... this is probably the most extreme measure but... we are going to move to Korea for a few years. We're (un)lucky in the sense that neither of us is a professional, i.e. have a career track. We can pick up whatever - I also have an advanced degree so I can even teach at a university or a language school... PN can get an ESL certificate or something. This way, LN will hear and learn Korean but will still speak English at home with PN. Also, PN can learn enough Korean so that LN can't sass back in Korean. :-) Of course, as I said, this is pretty extreme. If we were to live here the whole time, I suppose I'd seek out a Korean school/camp group with like-minded parents..?  

  11. # Blogger Carol

    I think my comment must've not made it through! Just wanted to say to do what you can ... I'm not fluent, only have the ability/vocab of a 3 year old. No way I could hold a meaningful conversation. Hard to pass on a language when you're not fluent! But I like the idea of taking lessons as a family ... or getting a robot :-D

    In the delirium of early baby days, when T needed to be held all the time, I wished for a Walk-o-matic 5000 - a robot that simulated body heat and a pocket to place the baby in, with continuous loop-walking motion.  

  12. # Blogger kim

    Thanks for everyone's input - it's good to know that we're not alone.

    It's also interesting to note that several of you want robots. Hmmm... should we be worried? :)  

  13. # Blogger mangadezi-jr

    My wife and I have tried to maintain her family's language--Odawa (Ottawa), but with mixed results . . . my father-in-law is fluent, but my wife isn't. There are numerous words and phrases that we use around the house that are Odawa, but none of us could carry on a conversation with a fluent speaker.
    Back home, there are fewer and fewer fluent speakers and many fear the loss of the language altogether. Some believe that culture is tied to language, intimately. . .
    I haven't tried to teach them Thai, though and haven't tried really hard to relearn it either . . . I like to say, "the more languages a person knows, the better," but haven't applied this to my own life.  

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