Ethan – second blog post
I’ve just read some wonderful blog posts like Hsinhua’s and it seems the buzz word in our recent discussion is language anxiety. I want to talk more about it, but not like Lauren Godfrey-Smith who talks about her own experience as a French learner and speaker in Montreal.
I would like to talk about language anxiety from a parent’s perspective. It might be difficult for those who have never had the experience of L2 learning or raising a baby to make sense of the meaning of ‘a parent’s anxiety for his child language learning’. Well, I might have coined this term, but I believe I’m not the first to be concerned about it.
When my wife and I decided to take our two-year-old son to Montreal, we thought it would be a great opportunity for him to have access to three languages at an early age (Chinese, English and French) and have the opportunity to learn them all. We were lucky in that we were offered a place at a public daycare after a month of our arrival. The teachers and administrators there speak French mainly and our best hope was that our son would be able to learn to use this beautiful language. But soon, we realized the potential problem: since neither of us could speak French, could this input at the daycare be adequate for a two-year old to learn about a new language? And since we haven’t really decided about the future, would it be more beneficial for him to receive education in a more global language? We became intensively worried especially when we couldn’t communicate effectively with the teachers. As a result, we started to doubt our decision in the first place. Then the opportunity to change came from an English-speaking daycare — there was also a vacancy in this daycare. After careful consideration, we had him transferred to this new daycare.
Now that the decision has been made, we start to worry about the consequences (Yes, parents just love to worry about their kids). In the book Trilingualism in family, school, and community (Charlotte Hoffmann and Jehannes Ytsma, 2004), the authors of the second chapter mentioned about the case of transition multilingual and the perception of identity of multilingual groups. According to them, ‘Language is not only a symbol of identity but also the main instrument upholding or promoting the groups’ ethnic identities… When language is the defining characteristic of an ethnic group, it is necessary to understand and speak it in order to belong to the group, or at least in order to be recognized as belonging to the group’. If this were the case, wouldn’t it be better to have our son share the same linguistic identity with kids in Montreal.
Multilingual families are common in Montreal; however, their identities vary from one to another. What are our identities? Will the decision made by us benefit our son in the long run? Would it be better for him to pick some French as early as possible? I would really like to listen to your comments.
Ytsma, J., & Hoffmann, C. (2004). Trilingualism in family, school, and community. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.