Daron, Melanie, Stephen, Kassie, and Kenny

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Multi-lingual homes

We discover new things everyday we love about Switzerland! And not just the whole country, but mostly this darling little town we moved to. I'm so glad we chose this charming village over a busy town.  Here are just 4 things:

1 - Our tomato plant that's growing lots of tomatoes, given to us by our cute neighbor Margaret, who grew it for us from seed!

2 - The public drinking 'spout' that we love to stop and get drinks from when we're out playing... you have to be sure you don't drink from the ones that say "non potable d'eau"...

3 - All the orchards and vegetable fields around us. We found these 2 vegetables that someone had pulled up and left wilting by the road, so we took them home to figure out what in the world they were ~ white radishes??  Still not sure... I didn't dare use them without knowing...

4 - The amazing, lush flowers. Here's a cute cottage down the road from us - I had to take a picture so I can try to imitate this glorious freestyle design when I get back to Texas.

So I've come to an interesting conclusion about the multi-lingual homes here. While it's one of the most amazing things I've encountered here - the fact that multiple languages are spoken in most homes, I also see it, in some circumstances, as a potential social predicament.  For instance, many homes have the father speaking one language and the mother speaking a different language to the children. So the children grow up responding to each parent in a different language. No problem, if the mother and father both understand each other's language. In fact great, because often the child is getting 3 separate languages (say, German from the Dad, English from the Mom, and French in school. Amazing.) But what if the mom and dad don't speak each other's languages? Kenny had a playdate at a friend's house, and the adorable mom speaks Arabic, French, and English. But the dad only speaks French. So - the mom speaks Arabic - always - to her children, even around the French-speaking husband (who doesn't understand her Arabic). So in essence, except for what few words he picks up of Arabic over time, he doesn't understand what his wife is saying to his kids pretty much all the time. Even at dinner, he might ask for clarification on something said, but it's like totally separate conversations going on. He's basically a bystander rather than a participant in his own home. So as the mom was standing there talking to me in English, the dad stood behind her, and after greeting me in French, he just stood back and did his own thing. Understandable that he doesn't speak English - not everyone here does. But it posed an interesting dynamic - she and me talking and laughing, without him taking any part. Even more than just not talking with visitors like me, him not being 'in on' the conversation in the home is kind of wild.
I've thought many times since coming here, how cool it would have been to have learned Swedish from my Mom (who's a full Swede, and totally fluent) and Spanish from my Dad (who's still fluent from his mission).  But if they had spoken those languages to us growing up, it would've completely changed our social scene in the home. Most of my favorite memories are of the family laughter and banter together with my parents and siblings -- it would've changed all that if we were just talking Swedish with Mom and Spanish with Dad. I suppose we could've spoken English together, but the kids here generally stick with the strong tongue they're initially taught by whichever parent. It's just interesting. Like, what if Daron spoke Japanese to our kids in the home? Can you imagine? What a hoot - they'd be bilingual, but I wouldn't have a clue what he'd be saying to them! I guess it just works itself out... but I'm glad I grew up the way I did. And I'm glad we're all now getting the chance to learn another language together.

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