Friday, July 27, 2007

Mother tongue

Yesterday I read an email from the foreign wife mailing list in Japan. About a Russian mother who speaks English to her daughter as a mother tongue instead of Russian. It's because of the parents want the girl to speak English and Japanese as the main languages. She said she will teach Russian later after the daughter speaks the first languages well.

This idea got confronted by a British woman. She said that the Russian mother should not teach English to her daughter because it is not her mother tongue. Because the daughter later on would speak "weird" English in term of pronunciation, intonation, and grammar (jahat amat!!)

Anyway those emails made me thinking this whole day. I also speak English to Iki as the main language meanwhile Hiro speaks Japanese to him. Of course he is familiar also with Indonesian because Hiro and I speak "GOOD" mixture of English, Japanese and Indonesian. Now I'm worried if my English is not good enough that Iki will speak "weird" English later on (quoted from that British woman statement). I had a chat with hiro about this mother tongue thing and he insisted that I keep English as the main language to communicate with Iki. No matter how "weird" the English would be. There are lots of English versions in this world. British, American, Australian, Singaporean, and many more. People from different countries speak "different" English. Maybe for that British woman, British English is the only correct English form in the world?! :p

It passed my mind to speak Indonesian to Iki. But even if I want to teach Iki Indonesian as a mother tongue, which "Indonesian" would it be?! The formal Indonesian "EYD"? (Well, I don't even master it :p), Banjarese dialect(I thought it's my mother tongue but in fact I don't use it at all lately), Manadonese dialect? (When I went back there I couldn't speak Manadonese dialect well, and didn't understand LOTS of words), Suroboyoan (I think it's my "language" now but Hiro doesn't understand at all) or The Kondo's Indonesian?! ("very" simplified Indonesian used in this house).
Oh well most likely he will master the Kondo's Indonesian since it's the Indonesian language we use at home. Then Iki's Indonesian will be "really weird", right?!

Look at our conversation few minutes ago:
Me: tadi Iki bangun then kamu ganti pampers dia?
Hiro: ya, sudah yo. tapi after change langsung dia tidur, tidak minum.
Me: oh sudah yo minum
Hiro: minum water? tadi baru dia bangun?
Me: ya, sudah minum banyak

THAT kind of Indonesian. Not to mention the intonation!!!

OK....Make up my mind now!!
I'll stick to English as the main language then hahaha

Additional note based on Sheila's comment (^_^):
Since I'm not an English native, I always switch to Indonesian whenever I don't know how to express something :p. And listening to his parents conversation in "our" Indonesian, Iki understands some Indonesian words pretty well though I don't talk in Indonesian that much to him. That's why he was able to "communicate" with my family back in Manado.
And living in Korea, environment puts some Korean words inside his (quoting Sheila) spongy brain as well. So whenever we go out, he can do greetings in Korean (like bowing when someone said "annyonghasseo") for example. Also can give response to simple Korean questions. I'm really amazed of a baby's brain capability in absorbing new things, including languages! Though he needs longer time to be able to make up his mind of which language to speak first.
Hence Hiro and I are not worried if his speaking ability is a bit late comparing to other children of his age. He's living in 4 languages now though his main languages are English and Japanese.


Sheila said...

Hahahahahaha lucunyaaaaaaa conversation-mu sama Hiro.

I still dont understand why you didnt teach Iki Bahasa Indonesia, though. The simple ones, I think should be fine.

I mean... I read an article somewhere, and living proofs actually show that a child IS capable of being raised with THREE languages.

I am fully interested in languages and the development of mother tongue, and I have seen lots of proofs of multilinguals who are able to perform three languages in good ways eventhough their mom/dad aren't mothertongue.

I don't know who that British woman is... but I give you some living examples that I have known, and I have examined (meaning interviewed, seen, and lived with):

1. My mom's friend's children in Netherlands. They grew up with Dutch, learn English and German at school, ended up speaking all three languages fluently, oh and they only understand VERY LITTLE Indonesian coz their parents hardly spoke bahasa Indonesia to them.
Even now as they are adults, and the parents (both Indonesian mothertongue) speak perfect Indonesian (regarding pronunciation etc), the children's Indonesian is STILL below average, due to unaccustomed tongue since childhood.

2. My own cousins in Sydney. All speak English as the first language, though their parents speak Indonesian at home. The children refuse speaking Indonesian coz they feel their pronunciation and their intonation are horrible, so they end up understanding what people say, but NOT being able to answer (and reply in English instead)

3. My new boss in the language institute. Half American, half Italian, born and grew up in Germany. She spoke all three languages, but NEVER considered German her mother tongue (despite the perfection of her German), coz she said her mother tongue are the languages she speaks AT HOME, which were English with Dad and Italian with Mom. German is something she simply learns at school coz she has to.
But she told me that it's never her native language, though she was proud she was raised in THREE languages at the same time.

4. ME.
I grew up with English books, fairy tales, and stories. One of my first words were "Good morning papa", "Good night, sweet dreams Mama", even long BEFORE I knew the greetings in Indonesian.
I never knew Indonesian tales, cerita rakyat (was it?), legends, etc. I only knew Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and all the stories my mom used to read for me IN ENGLISH.
Oh, and LOTS of English children songs. I recalled NOT knowing Balonku Ada Lima before I learned Que Sera Sera by heart :-D

And I grew up being used to THINK in English. My brain functions in both languages, Indonesian and English. My parents are no English native speakers, but they succeeded creating an "almost" native environment for me. It results quite well for the brain function (NOT HAVING TO TRANSLATE things from Indo to English, but simply THINK them in English), and yes, multilingual SHOULD WORK THE BEST for kids!!!

I've seen other marvelous examples but it's too many...
Sorry this comment is longer than the posting (what's new??? Hehehe), but I seriously think growing up with multilinguals are not a bad idea at all. It doesnt matter if the parents are no native speakers of the language. and NO, it SHOULDN'T cause confusion and mix-up in the languages they learn.
A child's brain is like a sponge, you form it the way you want it.

Seriously consider talking small, simple Indonesian to your son, he'll get through it. Not in the first years, of course, he'll mix it up at the age of 3 or 4, but by the time he joins school he'll know which language to talk to whom with.

it's the way the brain functions, it's the acquisition of the language that matters.
If he doesn't need to translate, starts to perform the language instantly from the brain, that's his first language(s). Doesn't matter if the parents are native or not. The brain simply develops and generates within the language, trust me. I've been there, and done that :-D

imoet said...

hahaha udah biasa baca komen super panjangmu. well i enjoy that though :p. Thanks (^_^)

i don't teach Indonesian directly to Iki. But still he encounters some Indonesian from his daily life (from his parents' conversation) :).

and oh, aku udah bikin additional note about this kok :)

a2pl3 said...

Agreed with Ella! :D

I think if we have kids later on, it's gonna be a mixture too, between Singlish and Indo or Malay. Terrence knows bits and pieces of Malay, but I hardly speak to him in Indo.

Oh... and could be Chinese too, since Terrence speaks Chinese with his friends... :D

I could see your dilema, Mut, but then, I may not be the best person to say anything since I have no kids yet... :D

But from what I've known of my nieces and nephews ... like what Ella said... kid's brains are like sponge... so much so that it scares me... Coz once wrong word, they would remember it and could be used in the wrong context or environment.... :D

NoorIntan said...

a little confused here, since i can't see any posting beside Sheila's comment... hahahaha.... it's your uniqueness, La, don't ever change :D

now back to your posting, Moet, don't worry too much. and that British woman needs a whack in the back of her head by saying something like that!! of course she speaks perfect English, she IS an English woman! D'oh!!!

don't be too worry about Iki's English, you can always send him to an English course later when he's older to 'polish' his English...
it is an advantage for him to be introduced in many languages in your household, I wish I could to it to Ameera but I don't think i'd be bothered teaching her 'bahasa jawa' hehehe...