Why should I pass on my mother tongue to my child?

Mother Tongues Stories

Why should I pass on my mother tongues to my child?

I am from a small place called Azanuy, in Spain but at this stage, I have lived outside Azanuy for longer than half of my life. I grew up with Aragonese-Catalan as my heritage language, it was spoken around me by my father and his side of the family, but I was not encouraged to speak it. As a result, I can understand it, but I am not fluent enough to speak it confidently.

From a young age, I developed a love for languages and a fascination for the way identities are constructed around them. It is no surprise that I went on to study Linguistics, English Cultural Studies and Translation in college.

Over two years ago, my father had an accident and while I was with him in the hospital, he received a visit from two neighbours from Azanuy. They spontaneously reverted to speaking the dialect. I had not heard it for over ten years, and without them even noticing, it was so emotional that I had to hold back my tears. At that moment, I had the poignant realisation that the part of me which is connected to the dialect is always dormant because I neither speak it, nor can I hear it easily since it is geographically localised and endangered.

in the past year or so, I started reaping the fruits of my work!

soraya's family

My husband is Irish, and we have two daughters, Alba aged 3 and Saoirse who is almost 2. We are raising them bilingually through Spanish and English. Given my personal experience growing up and my academic background, fostering my mother tongue in my children was not a decision I had to make.
This is not to say that it came easy. Children do not usually start talking until age two or three, so at the beginning I found it hard to switch to Spanish when speaking to “the baby” while using English with everyone else around me but, in the past year or so, I started reaping the fruits of my work!

When I see Alba having full conversations in Spanish with my mother on videocalls or with any Spanish speaker friends, my heart swells. It is so rewarding to see their Spanish skills expand, for at present it is only through me (and dubbed Peppa Pig!) that my daughters get their Spanish input.

Do not give up

I would like to encourage every parent (and even grandparent!) to pass on their mother tongue to their (grand)children.
The sense of unnecessary loss I felt over two years ago, in the presence of my father and neighbours, I would not want anyone else to feel. Push through any roadblocks along the way through the supports available in the community, such as Mother Tongues. Access to a language, a culture and different ways of viewing the world is one of the best legacies that can be passed on.

Enjoy the process!

Soraya Sobrevía Recio

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Write your story in at least 300 words and send it to us with a nice photograph of your family! The most interesting ones will be published on our blog!

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