When languages get lost along the way

When Languages get lost along the way

I traveled to Australia with my Italian Passport, and when the immigrations officer saw something off in my visa, naturally he spoke to me in Italian. I froze and answered back in English, hoping he would just shrug off the fact that I couldn’t speak Italian even though I look the part. I answered in English to what I thought he had said, something about visto bambino, that the visa had my name but not my daughter’s name on it and so it was not valid for her. He must have seen my face of horror after 48 hours traveling with a toddler that could barely walk and sort of smirk smiled and let me into their country, in English.

Italian is my family heritage language, but I don’t speak it. I can say Va Fan Culo which I know is a total insult along the lines of F%& You. And ok I can say Ciao and I can say the names of the different kinds of pasta, but thats about it. Just like any other language I might come across, yet I cannot speak it.

My mom and I used to watch a cute TV show called Topo Gigio, we used to watch in Spanish but the original is in Italian. I use to pronounce it “Topo Yiyo” and my mom would have panic attacks, reminiscent of my future meltdowns over her appalling English pronunciation (she’s a total English master now btw).

I’m not sure why my parents never taught be to speak Italian, they grew up speaking Italian, my mom even went to an Italian school, 3/4 of my grandparents are Italian and they used to speak Italian at the dinner table. Maybe they didn’t feel I needed it, in a sense I did not really need it since we didn’t live in Italy so life just went by and I never learned.

This month I am hosting the Blogging Carnival about Raising Global Citizens, created by the Piri Piri Lexicon. A Blogging Carnival is a round up of stories written by different bloggers about the same topic. I asked my fellow bloggers from Multicultural Kid Blogs for articles about languages that we lose along the way in our Multicultural Lives. When we live in a country that isn’t ours, and / or marry someone that speaks a different language, the possibilities of language for our kids are bigger and broader. Not always can we teach them all the languages, especially if they aren’t being used on a daily basis.

Let’s see what my blogger friends had to say about their experience with language loss.

1. Rita

Read the full article here;
Losing or never learning a family language, How does it feel?

Rita Rosenback from the Multilingual Parenting Blog talks about how some of the readers of her book “Bringing up a Bilingual Child” approach her about the languages that sometimes don’t get learned and how that creates a sense of loss and a missing piece in their lives.

The language that is lost not only leaves the person without being able to speak it but also without a great deal of knowledge pertaining to the culture.

Losing a heritage language seems to affect how multicultural kids and adults embrace their own personal growth.

Rita also interviewed her daughter about all the languages she speaks and what her experience was with learning them. You can read that here;
Interview with my daughter

2. Ute

Read the full articles here;

Ute from Expat Since Birth talks about how her family chose to drop two heritage languages while keeping one family language and the languages spoken at school. What I really enjoyed about these articles is how they span many years and how her kids grew into being interesting about the dropped languages.

Her kids now speak over four languages and that’s simply amazing!

3. Marianna

Read the full article here;

Marianna grew up with a German last name and no German language in her daily life. She knew her grandparents hadn’t even learned German when their families migrated to Venezuela.

She finally learned some German when she went to live there for a year with her family.

Now she hopes to keep the traditional German in her life, so that her kids can experience her family’s heritage language.

4. Danuta (guest writer on “Trilingual Children”)

Read the full article here;
Life Story, a Language Story that spans two centuries

Danuta’s story about her mixed family and how they have so many languages is a real treat. I could relate to this in a big way as I’m sure plenty of other people can too.

World War II was a changing time for many families as many of them lost not only languages but also family members.

The Blog Trilingual Children has other posts to read about this topic, like;
 Life Story: Emigrating at age 8. Challenges of preserving the home country culture and language. What can be passed onto the new generation?

5. Esther

Read the full article here;
Esther from the Blog Third Culture Mama writes about her own love of languages and how she has seen her children learning specific ones while “losing” others.
What I like about her story is how she changes the prompt around and believes that her family isn’t losing languages, but rather growing and changing with them.

6. Olga

Read the full article here;
Olga from the Blog European Mama wrote about Ute’s Multilingual Story after they met as new neighbors. Ute is the Expat Since Birth and her story really is one to remember. There are plenty other articles in Olga’s blog so you should go check it out.

7. Annabelle

Read the full article here;

Annabelle from Piri Piri Lexicon has been noticing the changes in the languages that her kids speak, as they grow in different parts of the world.

As they spend less time in Portugal, her daughter speaks it less but at the same time also manages to communicate in it quickly.

These experiences have made Annabelle decide to not stress over how many languages the kids can speak.