Today I'm really excited to be able to share with you a guest post from Olga over at The European Mama. She has chosen to write about the fascinating topic of identity and specifically how this relates to multilingual children.
Multilingual children and their identities
As an expat mother, the identity (or should I say, identities) my children may end up having, are always on my mind. With our combination of languages and cultures, the possibilities are endless. They may decide that they are Polish. They may decide to be German, or possibly Dutch. Or maybe each of the children will make a different decision? Will they feel a citizen of the world?
The interesting thing about this is that there is no definite answer. A friend of mine finds herself in a very similar situation. Her children are the same age as mine; they attend Dutch daycare just as mine do. And, while her children decided to be Dutch, mine feel more German.
When asked what she identifies with, she says: “German”. She speaks Polish with me but says she really doesn’t speak it. Julia, on the other hand, seems to be learning all three languages at a similar pace, with Polish leading at the moment. Also, while the first child widely influences the languages spoken in a family, the identity Julia chooses could be totally different one.
As we are expecting another baby, what he will become is another question entirely. The situation may be different. For example, as Klara goes to school, her knowledge of the language, and with it her identity, may change towards Dutch. Julia will most probably continue attending daycare for halfdays, and stay the rest of her time with me, so she may be Polish and German. I suppose the new baby will also attend daycare at some point, but will be influenced by his two bigger sisters.
I am very curious how my children will turn out in terms of identity. On top of maintaining our own cultures, we do pay attention to appreciating other traditions and languages. Klara is always interested in knowing about how to say something in another language.
I guess my point is that while the children will end up choosing their own identities themselves, based on their strongest languages, peers, and personal preferences, I have to remember that we as parents play a great role in shaping our children’s identities.
Also, I came to realize that our identities change all the time. And nowhere is it as visible as with our children. As languages, circumstances and friends change, so do identities. I am excited to see what the future will bring. I am excited to watch my children’s knowledge of languages improve and develop. I am curious what they will identify with in certain moments of their lives and where life will take them.
What are your experiences? What identities did your children have? How did these identities change? How do you feel did you influence this?