Mother Tongues Stories
Speaking many languages is amazing!
Since a young age, I have had a passion for languages – my older brother started school and learning languages way before I did, and I remember being with him and my father on the table while he was doing his English homework and I would immediately want to do the same thing or learn a new word. This experience was enriching for me, but probably not so much for him, with his little sister constantly interrupting. Growing up, my choice of studies was obvious (for me, at least!): languages and subsequently, translation.
Later in life, I ended up meeting and marrying an Italian man and living in Italy for several years. During that time, my little one was born and there was never a question in our minds that we would be speaking with her each one in our own language (me speaking Portuguese and him speaking Italian).
Almost immediately, I noticed a change in me as a new mum: I have always been quite an introvert, but then I found myself talking constantly to my daughter so that she could familiarize herself with Portuguese sounds. And my husband would do the same in his language. A couple of years later, we decided to move to Ireland and therefore added another 2 languages to the mix: English (and Irish in school).
Now, almost 5 years later, I keep talking in Portuguese and my husband in Italian and she speaks to us in English. I know she knows the languages, because she understands them, but at the moment she prefers English. My role as a mother is just to keep her interested in Portuguese (and her dad in Italian) through books, activities, games and interactions with family and other kids that speak those languages. For example, quite recently, we have enrolled her in Italian classes with Mother Tongues to try and get her to speak a little bit more Italian.
I believe both me and my husband are eager for her to start reading and writing in these languages as well – even though it will take time and patience to teach her how.
My hope for the future is that she realizes that speaking so many languages and learning from so many cultures is amazing!
Inês Pascoa Baptista
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