'Armpit' Leads the Way to a Second Language

12 March 2009

Originally published March 12, 2009.

My kids have my dark hair and dark, almond-shaped eyes. Their light complexion is a genetic gift from their Canadian/Northern European dad, but it's still a warm olive tone. Yes, my kids certainly look Filipino.
Unfortunately, they don't sound Filipino. My children don't know how to speak Tagalog.

Oh, wait, they know one word: kili-kili. Yes, folks, my kids know how to say "armpit" in Tagalog -- Mother of the Year, right here.

I'm sure they learned it from my sister during a moment of silliness. But really, if she was giving them an impromptu language lesson, I wish she'd chosen a more useful word.
Let's face it, armpit doesn't get you very far... unless you need deodorant, are telling someone they need deodorant, want your underarm waxed, or for some reason need to convey that you don't want to be tickled "there".

Oh, I had such grand plans. I figured I would speak to my babies only in Tagalog from the moment they popped out of me. Daddy would speak to them in English. French -- Canada's other official language -- they would later learn at school. Plus, they'd have an easier time with French because studies have shown that being multilingual at a young age helps kids learn more languages in later years.

Well, some grand plans they turned out to be. Smartypants here didn't consider the fact that my own Tagalog, for lack of a better word, sucks. I'm painfully out of practice. My husband never learned it -- except for butiki, the word for "gecko". Try using that everyday in a sentence other than "That butiki will die here." My sister, who is fluent, can only manage short visits with us. So, the only real Tagalog immersion I can get is during the rare trip to see my grandmother in the US, and I doubt that's happening anytime soon.

Then there's the fact that I get better and faster results saying "Pick up your toys", "Elbows off the table", and "You put WHAT in the DVD player?!!!" in English.

Still, it will be helpful for my children to know Tagalog. I know it was helpful for me growing up. Knowing the language was my "in". It enabled me to take an active part in the large local Filipino community, to truly appreciate my heritage, and to share the beauty of my country of origin with the country that I now lovingly call home.

Canada is such a delicious melting pot where multiculturalism is embraced, even celebrated in festivals like our own local Folklorama. I want my kids to appreciate the unique part, the unique flavour, they can add to that melting pot.

And all that starts at home. So, starting today, I will be speaking to my kids in Tagalog more and more. I'll be working on teaching the hubby too. I'm sure they'll all be speaking it back to me faster than you can say kili-kili.

Do your kids speak more than one language? What other languages, if any, would you like them to learn?

0 comments - LEAVE YOURS HERE...:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...