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On language and other ways to foster learning

Dear Maricel, 


Your column teaches us a lot how to become good parents. I am married to a wonderful Norwegian for the last three years and two months. We are living in Norway and I gave birth to our little princess on July 21, 2003, She’s one year and seven months old now and growing up to be a very wonderful child. She’s starting to talk now and my problem is deciding what language I should teach her. Should it be Norwegian, English, Filipino? Tagalog, Cebuano or Ilonggo? Sometimes I rumble the language because I am confused as to what language to speak to her. Please give me some advice. Thanks a lot and a very icy regards to you and to your family from this very cold country.


Sincerely yours,


Gretel Jean F. Svendsvik 


Dear Gretel,


Thank you for your letter. When my youngest brother Misha (who’s now 16) was a very young child, I asked my stepdad why he spoke to my brother in straight Tagalog. I was quite baffled because my stepdad was fluent in English, Spanish, and German and I thought that it was a great opportunity for him to speak to my brother in different languages to make him fluent in them. His explanation was simple. He believed that Tagalog was the hardest language to learn so he decided to teach his child that first. Besides, he felt it would be a shame for his son not to know how to speak his native tongue. Since my parents have been based in Singapore for eight years now, my brother has been going to an American school and speaks English with a twang but still manages to converse with us in pure Tagalog when he comes home to visit. He’s also learning to speak Spanish and Mandarin without much difficulty.


One of the major difficulties of students nowadays is trying to pass their Filipino subject. Because of it, they are forced to seek the help of a tutor. It’s a pity that we Filipinos would need to be tutored in our own language! I’ve met many parents who refuse to hire yayas who can’t speak English because they want their kids to speak English fluently but later find themselves spending a bundle for a Filipino tutor. My policy at home is simple. When I speak to my children, I try my best not to speak to them in Taglish. It’s either English or Tagalog. I have requested my yayas to try their best to speak in proper English. I also give them the option to speak to my children in their own dialect without mixing it with Tagalog, etc. As far as their pronunciation is concerned, I just aid them on the job and I don’t make a big deal of it when I hear my kids speaking English with a Visayan or deep Tagalog accent. I guess you just have to decide what language to use in communicating with them on a moment-to- moment basis and be consistent with the language. Perhaps you can even divide the work by assigning your husband to speak to them in Norwegian, then you may choose the days of the week you will practice your other dialects/languages. Example: Monday – Tagalog, Tuesday – English, Wednesday – Ilonggo, etc.


Hope that helps.


Maricel

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E-mail me at mommytalk@businessworks.com.ph.

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