Raising A Bilingual Baby

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I grew up speaking four different languages and I understood atleast six languages in India. Everybody in my country is pretty much multilingual. You learn English in school, Hindi is our national language spoken quite widely by people, Marathi is our state language again spoken by the people of the state and taught in school very extensively and then if you happen to have a different mother tongue which I did, Bengali, you would learn that from errmm your mother!

So you see why it is so important for me that my child is atleast bilingual. I failed at it with Reuben and Irene. That is because they were proficient in Korean and I was not. I was trying to teach them English when they came to England because that was a priority at the time. And by the time I realised that it would be nice if they could speak my language, they were quite a bit older and I was relatively younger and unprepared for the challenge.

With baby Ro, I had nine whole months to decide and prepare myself for the challenge ahead. You see in India it is easy to pick up languages because you hear all these languages around you all the time but here English is so widely spoken and you yourself are so used to speaking in English that when you have to speak to somebody who is not capable of reciprocating in the same language as you, it is difficult to even talk in your own language, let alone speak with the intention of teaching it to somebody else.

However, I have chosen to teach my baby my mother tongue, and I have no idea whether he will eventually learn my language or not, that fear will live with me until he can speak properly in both English and my mother tongue, Bengali.

At present, Roshan understands a lot of what I say and sometimes will respond more to words spoken in Bengali than in English but at 14 months whatever he says is nothing more than babbles and sometimes plain gibberish. He calls his father “baba” and then refers to our dog Rustle as “Bubba”. Now we can differentiate what he means because we put his gibberish into context but how much of it is language is a mystery.

I have read no books and have no friends in a similar situation as mine who could inspire me. I am doing everything by instinct and trial and error. It is definitely a challenge but we are plodding along slowly. Here are some of the ways in which I try to teach my baby to be bilingual:

One Parent, One language

I try and speak to Roshan in Bengali. The idea is that one parent speaks to the baby in one language exclusively. Slowly the child associate that parent with the language and starts engaging in the language he associates that parent with.

For me , exclusivity is difficult because of my other two children. When there is nobody home, I speak to Roshan in Bengali but when the kids or Ed is home, I am speaking in English majority of the time and end up communicating with Roshan in English.

One thing I have started doing though is, as soon as I speak to Roshan in English, I then very quickly translate it into bengali in the hope that he picks up the language.

Reading books

This one is my favourite and quite difficult. Ideally, I’d buy books in bengali for Roshan but it is very difficult to get hold of in the UK. So I try to translate any book that we have into bengali for him.

Singing songs

I sing a lot to Roshan. And eventhough I don’t know a lot of bengali songs myself, I sometimes make up songs in my language. We have a bathtime song, poo-time song and even nappy change song. Words keep changing because, well I make it as I go along.

Skyping family

I skype my mother, practically everyday. My mother lives in a joint family and everybody tries to come and speak to Roshan. Everybody speaks to him in Bengali. I try to create a sense of community for my baby in those 20 minutes of skype time.

Watching films and listening to music

We don’t watch a lot of tv but every now and again I try and put on music videos that are in bengali. Roshan enjoys hindi songs more though.

I also try and put on bengali songs for him whilst we are playing, eating or just lounging. Again, Roshan prefers his dad’s hip hop more!

Selective Response

Roshan is too young for this. But the idea is when he can start talking, I am going to insist that he speaks to me in bengali if he wants to get a response. Initially I will translate his request into bengali and ask him to repeat it just how we teach our children to say “please’ and “thank you”. In time, he will develop an association and understand that if he wants mummy’s attention he needs to speak in bengali.

I think this one might seem a bit brutal but is essential because baby will try to avoid speaking in the language he finds hard to come up with words in. In order to encourage him this method will come handy.

Translate and repeat

As mentioned above, as a parent you might have to translate and make them repeat. Children are going to find it very hard to learn a language that they are not listening to around them. It will be especially difficult to find certain words and they’d be tempted to use the words in a language that they are used to listening to more. In order to help them find words more easily this method will be helpful.

I already do it with Roshan. I ask him to repeat words and phrases after me and eventhough he can’t quite speak the words he has mastered the art of mimicking the tone of the words or phrases, which I think is a step forward already.

Patience & Persevere

Please be patient. I have no experience but I think as a parent if I persevere, baby Ro will activate his subconscious and learn the language eventually.

There might be a phase where baby Ro might only reciprocate in English and that might be an excuse for me to stop speaking to him in Bengali. But if I persevere and carry on speaking to him in Bengali he might get over his phase and start speaking to me in my language.

I have seen some children do that. Some children speak in English in public out of embarrassment to their parents whilst the parents still carry o Hunn speaking in some native language. Same children, go home and speak very eloquently in their mother tongue.  

Have you raised a bilingual child? Do you have any tips for me?

 

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Are we there yet? Welsh Camping 2015

A holiday together was long overdue! We spent past few years, moving houses, getting married and doing up our new house – atleast starting on it! So this year, we finally decided to embark on an adventure. For the first time in five years, we managed to go on a holiday together. Lack of money and my visa restrictions motivated us to go camping. And boy, that was fun!

Our children had never been camping in the past, so this was a great big adventure for them and our pooches . We chose the Welsh Highlands of Porthmadog in North Wales. I, personally had no idea how or what Wales was like, but my husband nagged me into believing it was one of the best places to be camping. And, I saw why as soon as we drove up the hills, through the winding roads with spectacular scenery that surrounded us; we were enamoured by the massive expanse of it’s sea coast and I, was particularly taken by the friendly, enthusiastic and helpful people of Porthmadog.

There was a lot to do in town but we stuck to our campsite that walked straight into the Black Rock Sands. It was HUGE and it had a dog friendly end to it which almost seemed bigger than the non-dog friendly end of the bay, very convenient for families who were traveling with pets. We spent 5 days lounging about the beach and climbing great big mountains and relaxing basically. We even made some good friends at the campsite and celebrated our dear Irene’s 7th birthday on the beach!

Here are some of the pictures for you to have a sneak peak at our holiday:

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Just arrived, tent is set up and now time for cuppa!

start climbing

steam railway

on top

snack break

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Smug face, for being the first one to climb up the hill.

sibling love

There is no shame Rustle, if you can't handle those nettles!!

There is no shame Rustle, if you can’t handle those nettles!!

proud moment for Ed

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well achieved

little hiker

intrepid Irene

climb no 2

best one

relaxing

crazy hair

hand stand

more action


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Irene's birthday

cutie pie

friends

don't turn your back

That is how we cramped everything and everyone into our tiny car.

That is how we cramped everything and everyone into our tiny car.

I hope you enjoyed looking at our experiences. Let me know about your summer holidays and camping experiences!


Mummy, what is this?!

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Every mother tries her best to keep her monthly menstrual phase a secret from her children for as long as possible. It is one of those topics like how and where do babies come from? that you want to avoid.

When I was a kid, I had a habit of playing shops with mum’s wardrobe. My mother was very patient and let me open her wardrobe and pretend to sell her saree’s to imaginary customers. Now one fine day, I found out her bag of sanitary pads wedged in between a pile of saree’s!!

Something similar happened to me a couple of years ago, when my children were 4 and 6 years old. Because they were very young, I resorted to the answer that my mother gave me when I was little. And since I have two children, one takes the new found item to the other creating two curious bambinos. One would happily settle for, “it is a mummy thing, will tell you more when you are a bit older”, but the younger one couldn’t understand that nor could she accept that as a convincing answer. So I shared my mum’s wisdom!

Me: Irene, it is like a band-aid that only mummy needs when she bleeds.

She seemed convinced enough to leave me alone and carried on drawing.

Oh, that went well!! Success!! My mother was right. I didn’t lie but I didn’t tell the truth either. Now after two years, last week Irene fell over and had a big cut (not that big, more like a long paper cut). So she came to me asking for a plaster. I said, I don’t have any we’ll get some new ones when we pop out to the shops.

But no, she didn’t stop at that. She wanted a plaster by hook or by crook.  History repeated itself after ten years. My daughter did the same thing that I did to my mother.

Irene (came hurriedly from the bathroom): Mum, look I found your band-aid. This will do for now, wouldn’t it? We can get you some more, ok?!

Me: No. Not ok!!

Right!! That’s exactly right. It was me who told her it was a plaster, she forgot the minor detail that it was ONLY for mummy.

Now, Irene is horrified of blood and so there was no way I could have told her what kind of bleeding it is for, so I re-instated the fact that it is only for mummy’s and for special kind of bleeding only. I will tell you more when I can ok? That was that for Irene!

But my Reuben is older now, at eight years he understands and senses things to be much more fishy than what is said. He asked me,

Reuben: “Mum, I never see you use them yet you buy new packets all the time.”

hmmmmmmmmm….

I took the risk of explaining him more, because he is older and less squeamish. I simply told him that mummy has an egg in her tummy and when that egg doesn’t turn into a baby, it comes out in the form of blood. I use these during those days. It only lasts for 5 to 7 days, not all the time. Well, he already knows where babies come from, so I reckoned it won’t be too hard for him to take this detail in.

So last week, I was shopping and I brought another pack of sanitary pads, to which my VERY LOUD Reuben said, “Mummy are your eggs hatching now?!!”

Only two people stared!!! Hmmmmmmm. Sigh!!

Kids are Kind

In our day to day parenting, we often are consumed with the chores and filled with frustration even; mopping up the floor, doing scores and scores of laundry, dealing with sticky table tops, cleaning drawings off the wall etc etc. And, if you have more than one kid, you are endlessly referree’ing between the two and no matter how many times you explain, they will be at it all over again probably within next 10 minutes or so.

Whilst we love our children, it isn’t untrue that they do drive us up the wall. And sometimes, we just want to get through the day and become less appreciative.

But kids are naturally kind. And in their own little ways, they express it every now and again. Now, it is up to us to notice them and make a memory of them because you know what? We may not remember every little mischief they do, but we will always cherish little acts of kindness they display which will eventually become a big part of their characteristic.

Here are just a few of many ways my kids have shown me love, affection and kindness when I least expected them:

Folding up the laundry:

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After returning from school, children get about 3 hours before it is their bedtime. And those 3 hours are spent playing, doing homework and arguing with each other, while mother (I) cooks, cleans, fold up the laundry, designates homework and helps them play as calmly as possible (impossible).

But one fine day, this was when Irene was five, she folded up a BIG pile of laundry into stacks individually piled up for each person in the house. I had no idea that this was happening while I was in the kitchen. I was awestruck by this act of her kindness and thought, gosh I love her so much and that she loves me so much!

If I ever complaint of having a lot to do, she’d often say, “I wish I could stay home today, so I could help you.” And she means it, I know that because she is very keen to help me out whenever she is home.

Making the bed:

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He may not make his own bed, even after begging him to do so everyday. But recently, since our dog had a leg surgery I am forced to sleep with her on the sofa from 4am when she wakes up. The only way to keep her calm is for me to sleep downstairs with her, and that way she remains calm and everybody can get few more hours of sound sleep.

Now because of this new arrangement my bedding needs to go back upstairs every morning. Normally, I’d do it after I drop the kids off to school but this morning was different. This morning my 8 year old, Reuben voluntarily picked up all my bedding and took it upstairs. Not only that, he also made my bed just the way I like it.

He said, “Mummy I made your bed. Sorry I can’t hear the dog in the morning to wake up and settle her back in bed. I am not strong enough yet.”

He touched my heart by showing appreciation for the sacrifices I make for everyone.

Keeping mummy warm:

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This happened in summer but knowing England’s weather, a hot day turned into quite a windy cold one. Clever mummy that I am I always carry enough clothing for my children but sometimes forget about myself.

My daughter held on to my legs (I was wearing a skirt so legs were cold), wrapped her arms around them to keep my legs warms. It may seem like nothing special but somehow it was to me. Ofcourse it didn’t keep my legs warm but it did keep my heart warm for a while. (I had a picture but I can’t find it)

I suppose children have to be raised in a kind and loving environment to receive it back. But honestly, I think children are naturally very kind. It is the unkindness that we teach them sometimes which takes over the act of kindness. The kindness remains as a natural instinct.

“Mum, I want to marry you”

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I remember having this conversation with my son when he was about 5 years old. He went through the phase where he didn’t like daddy touching mummy etc etc.

But yesterday, after school on the drive back home, my little 6 year old daughter said, “Mummy, when I grow up I want to still live with you”.

How sweet!! (I thought)

But before I could respond, my son jumped on to say, “But you might find a boyfriend and move out or get a job or go to university away from home.” (I think he must have learnt those possibilities from me, guilty)

So Irene said, “I don’t think I will have a boyfriend.”

Irene: “Mummy, I want to marry you”

It was a statement. No she wasn’t proposing! This is not how I accept marriage proposals.

Me: “But I am already married to daddy , love”

Irene: “Oh” (Caught ya)

After a looooong awkward silence she spoke AGAIN, ” but he is a MAAAAAAAN.” (we are moaning a little out of desperation here)

Me: “So? What are you saying, What do you mean ?”

Irene: “You said you are not allowed to marry another man, but I am going to be a woman. You can marry me and then I will even get to sleep with you in the same bed.”

Right this was getting a bit crazy and a bit out of my comfort zone. I miss daddy. I need rescuing.

Me: “I would love to have you living with me as long as you want Irene. Even if you do go to university and then want to come back to me, you are welcome. As for the marriage is concerned, you can’t marry until you are a grown up anyway.”

Irene: “When will I be a grown up ?”

Me: “You will be an adult when you are 18, how about we talk marriage then?”

I, couldn’t resist but cuddle her lots when we got home!

I love my children, even though they scare me with their love sometimes!! 😀

Kids Say The Funniest Things….

Parenting is fun, sometimes!

When they start talking, they talk a lot. They say ‘NO’ for everything, that phase is then taken over by the phase of asking ‘why’ and subsequently they put you on a spot when they ask you questions about the birth, God and Santa Clause (or lack of a chimney in the house). But then there are times their curiosity along with their imagination and innocence produce the most hilarious questions or ideas ever.

Recently, we had two funny incidences.

We were in a bus in London, and a Muslim family boarded in. The females were wearing their traditional black burka and hijab.

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Reuben who is seven whispered into my husbands ear,

‘Daddy, we have robbers travelling in this bus with us.‘ (I never thought of the Muslim attire that way before)

 

Another incident took place at the Notting Hill Carnival. We watched the parade go past and every participating group was grinding and whining as one can imagine. My very social kids were overwhelmed with the crowd, music and this outrageous form of dancing that they’d never witnessed before. I was wondering why weren’t they dancing or even smiling until…

Notting-Hill

Reuben nudged me to bend down and lend my ears for him to whisper something to me. And he said,

“Black people like SEXing a lot” (I think my kids thought I brought them to some orgy and not a festival where people danced, there was no dancing according to Reuben, just SEXing) ;p

It was thankfully only a statement and not a question, although I explained him that well it is a form of dance actually. But nevermind that!

What funny things do your kids say/said that have you in stitches? 

 

“I don’t have to tidy up today, it’s my birthday” – Irene Targett, on turning SIX!!

My memory of birthday party as a kid is being spoilt since morning! New clothes to wear, and good food to eat!  In the evenings, my parents would decorate the living room with ribbons, balloons and fairy lights!

My mum would make handmade burgers, and other tasty snacks for the guests, while dad would arrange for some ready made snacks like crisps, popcorns and sweeties of course! Cake was made to order and the process started almost a week ago – going to the bakery, picking a personalised design and placing the order!

When the guests arrived, we first cut the cake and that marked the start of the party. Cakes and snacks were distributed and my parents were in charge of games like pin the donkey’s tail, passing the parcel etc

Mind you, both of them were working parents!

So, what happened to the parents these days? When I came to England I was introduced to the new concept of birthday parties. They are called Jungle Jims here.  Jungle Jims are soft indoor play areas for children with a small cafeteria for the parents to enjoy a cuppa while keeping an eye on the kids. Today, parents hire these play areas for birthday parties! I love them, don’t get me wrong! They do all the work for you – food, gathering the kids together to cut the cake, distributing party bags, getting them all out on time and even tidying up! What is not to like?!

But what about mummy’s handmade snacks? What about the memory of watching your parents decorate the house for you and your friends? What about the anticipation of waiting for the friends to arrive at your own home while you are all dressed up pretty? Having friends over is such fun, and having them all together is even better, isn’t it?

I want my children to have those memories like I do. It is comforting! Kids that young may not remember the day itself, but there is something called a camera that captures moments to remember. And that is how I remember them and every time I look at them, something in my subconscious relates to the events on the images and makes my heart warm and peaceful!

I tried to encapsulate some moments from my daughter’s 6th birthday party. I hope she will cherish these memories! I know I will! 🙂

 

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How do you celebrate your child’s birthday party? What are your best memories from your childhood birthday parties?