Thursday, 22 May 2008

PROFILE: Maja (English in Poland)

General background

Which country do you live in and what is the community language?
Poland, Polish.

Which languages do you speak with your child?
My wife speaks Polish, while I use non-native English.

What language system are you using (OPOL/ML@H/etc)?
OPOL.

What are the names and ages of your children?
Maja (4 years), Tony (6 months).

What languages do you speak and to what level Basic/Intermediate/Advanced/Fluent)?
English - advanced, Polish - native.

Why have you chosen to raise your child with more than one language?
Now, that is a long story... When I was 13 I met this boy, Guillaume, also at the age of 13, who spoke three languages: English, French and Punjab. I was really amazed, and I never got rid of that amazement. When my wife got pregnant we knew, that bilingual way is the only right way to bring up our little one.

How are you passing on the different languages and/or culture?
Using English as a regular language when addressing my children, playing audio books, reading fairy-tales, playing cartoons, music.
Maja takes part in weekend English language school. Children also have an opportunity to hear some native English, as we often speak on the internet to their grandfather, my father, and his wife, who live in NY, USA, and their grandma who lives in UK.

Non-native issues

Do you seek to improve your own non-native language and, if so, how?
Oh, Yes I do. I read a lot, mostly on bilingualism, baby's process of learning, etc. In October I'm starting English Philology studies at our local university.

Do you get support for teaching your child from native speakers?
Maja has contact with native speakers at the weekend school of English language in our town. Both children have a constant contact with their grandparents from both UK and USA, on the internet.

Does your child ever teach or correct you?
Well, Maja does correct me, when I use Polish with Tony: 'Daddy, WHY do you speak Polish? Use English!'

In terms of your emotional relationship with your child, do you feel speaking in a non-native language adds something, takes something away, or both?
Hm... That's a tough one... I reckon it has no influence on the emotional relationship at the moment, as Maja is still too young, but things may change when she gets to understand more and more of the things around her. Right now, she really is a "daddy's little daughter", and it seems that it does not bother that daddy uses English.

Are there any particular advantages or disadvantages to speaking a non-native language with your child?
Now that is a question. Many articles, books, etc. have been written on that subject. Let me just enumerate some advantages that come to my mind right off the bat: - bilingual children are more efficient communicators - they develop a greater vocabulary size over age, in both ml and ML - they have a better ear for listening and sharper memories - they have a keener awareness, and are better able to deal with distractions. (This one really applies to Maja, in comparison to my friend's children in same/similar age)
Disadvantages: - I have to learn more and more words every day :)

How have your family and friends – and strangers - reacted to your decision?
My family supports us all the time. Since, my parents live abroad (mum in GB, dad in US), and my wife's sister, too (Germany), our families are used to foreign languages. Most our friends think that it is a great advantage for Maja to be exposed to English as a second language, though a few of them disagree on the way we do it, claiming it's too early. as for the strangers, other parents met in the park, on the playground, etc. - well, it does raise eyebrows when I speak to Maja in English, and after that use Polish when addressing my wife.

Has it ever proved difficult or challenging? And, conversely, what has been the most rewarding aspect?
It was, is and will be challenging. Difficult? Yes, in many aspects. Took me some time, and nerves, to get used to switching from English to Polish and back, when talking to Maja and other people at the same time. (It was more than once that I answered a phone call in English when it rung in the moment of me talking to Maja).

And finally, do you always plan to speak the non-native language with your child?
That's the plan, but, there is also a plan 'B' that assumes the possibility of Maja not being too keen on speaking English to me when she grows up. Pin It now!

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