Mother Tongues Stories
The gift of a second language
From the day my first daughter was born, I knew my best gift for her was to transfer my language and culture. It was likewise for my husband.
My name is Sandra Ruiz, I am Spanish; my husband is French from Guadeloupe. Our two daughters are Irish.
Since I remember, I have struggled to learn new languages as I was raised in a monolingual family for 29 years. My first time learning a new language was when I was 12 years old, learning basic English in school; a few years later I decided to learn Spanish Sign Language. The learning process was joyful and pressure-free during these years.
Then, I arrived in Ireland in 2009, when I was 28 years old. Since then, I have embedded English, French into my life every day, and more recently, Irish Sign Language. The learning process of English has been very challenging, as it comes with the extra pressure of the necessity to use it for work. So based on my own experience, I was very clear about my responsibility to teach my language to my kids from the moment I got pregnant; I didn’t want my daughters to face the same challenges that I did.
Nowadays, in our house the three main languages are fusing in a very natural way; as well as the culture attached to them. My husband speaks to my children French and I do so in Spanish; English is all around. We have learnt together to embrace all three languages well, so everybody feels very confident using them and helping each other to keep improving their communication skills.
As it is normal and expected, we do face some challenges as the structure and the implicit culture attached to the language, together with other factors, make it very difficult to transfer the message from one language to the other sometimes; however, with patience and encouragement, we continue passing on our legacy to them every day.
Language is the door to all knowledge; I am delighted to know that my kids will have the capacity to communicate and interact with people from everywhere. Equally, it is important for me to know that they are developing an open-minded people to socialise with people from any background.
They are lucky women, and we are proud parents.