Language is a window into culture and identity which often shapes the way we perceive the world. The story we share today is an original perspective on bilingual upbringing and the choices made to pass on parents’ language(s) and culture to their children. In this chapter of our Parents’ Feelings Matter series, we share Maria’s experience, challenges and strategies to nurture a multilingual family.
Maria's Unique Path
Born in Spain, Maria’s family moved to the US shortly after. When she was 10, she moved back to Spain, finally settling in Dublin as an adult. As a result of her family’s background and geographical shifts, her childhood was a rich blend of Spanish and English. This cross-cultural experience offered Maria a unique perspective, infusing fluency in both languages and fostering a profound attachment to English.
A Tug of War: Language and Identity
While Maria’s fluency in both languages was unquestionable, her relationship with them was nuanced. English, her chosen language of connection, was a constant presence, nurtured by interactions with extended family and her education. Spanish, though native, found itself in a more complex space—utilitarian and occasionally rejected. This intricate dance between languages shaped not only Maria’s personality, but also her decision-making as a parent.
The Decision to Pass on Heritage
Maria’s journey into parenthood presented an unexpected twist. Initially inclined to raise her children solely in English, her move to Dublin—a predominantly English-speaking environment—prompted her to reconsider. She made a conscious shift to preserve her Spanish heritage, passing it on to her children. Moreover, Maria’s extended family’s expectation to pass on Spanish highlighted the significance of heritage languages in bridging family connections and cultural bonds.
Confronting Societal Biases and Myths
Maria’s narrative sheds light on popular misconceptions that often influence multilingual parenting decisions. Such as the myth that introducing multiple languages to children leads to confusion and interferes with the achievement of proficiency.
Maria confronted these misbeliefs head-on, determined to provide her children with the gift of languages.
Maria’s journey shows the great lengths parents go, to pass on their heritage and enrich their children’s lives. Sometimes, as in Maria’s case, it requires a conscious shift in identity, a redefinition of roles and a commitment to weaving languages into the fabric of family life. If you feel you need support in navigating the challenges of raising a bilingual child, Mother Tongues can help. You can browse our free resources online and also book a one-to-one consultation with Dr Francesca La Morgia, a national expert in children’s multilingualism.