I was a kid who grew up in a communist country until the age of 12 when college students and young adults decided they had enough and gave it all for a chance at life.
At that time, all I spoke was my native language, Romanian (with 2 different accents – standard and northeastern). Our middle schools were offering foreign languages and, of course, Russian was the first foreign language to be offered, and quite a must so I took it in 5th grade.
After the 1989 revolution and the smile of freedom, English became an option and I started learning in 6th grade. Oh, and how I fell in love with it!!!
It wasn’t much and it was basic but I kept wanting more and more unlike Russian which I only enjoyed it because of the very kind and caring teacher I had. Yes, a caring teacher can make a big difference!
The funniest or silliest thing is that a few times, my friends and I would pretend we were English and made very good use of our little knowledge to fool people and see how they struggled to answer.
In high school, I traded Russian for French. My French classmates were in the 4th year of French when all I knew was to greet. It wasn’t easy but I loved it! Russian – I forgot most of it, but my Russian teacher- I will never forget!
I was about 17 when I heard my daddy speaking Italian over the phone. Soon enough, I started taking private Italian lessons. I loved the language and the tutor! A beautiful person whose life was mercilessly invaded by polio. She did not only teach me Italian. She taught me perseverance, kindness, passion for a culture she made hers.
Now, in Southern California, the language that I mostly use after English is, of course, Spanish – a language that I’ve secretly loved and longed to learn since 5th grade. However, I was never able to take Spanish in school so I had to learn it on my own.
All kids should have a choice even when it comes to learning another language! There are more and more choices here, in California too.
As parents, we never made our kids speak anything else but the language of their country where they are born and raised. I thought we owed it to them – to embrace and make English their first language. Do I get asked why I haven’t taught my kids other languages when they were little? Absolutely yes! Does it bother me? Absolutely not!
A new language should be an inner choice, a choice of the heart! Choices of the heart are passionate, long-lasting, and fully engaging. About 2 years ago, my oldest daughter showed her interest in learning Spanish. My other daughter – Italian. We started small and they are not completely fluent. Their different levels of fluency say a lot about the depth of their choice or interest. The greatest thing is that they keep wanting more and more! And the more you want something, the more you’ll make it happen!
In our home, we give choices and so did my folks.
They supported my passion for languages and I am ready to do the same thing for my kids. The choice is theirs! Every day, I am excited to teach them a little more at their learning pace. Learning has to be fun and joyful.