11 Aug 2014


Any kid growing up in the nineties would know what ESL stands for. It's English as a Second Language if you're wondering .. or forgot.

I say this because growing up a lot of my friends were like me, first generation migrants to Australia. I moved here from the Philippines when I was five years old, so english was not the first language I learnt. 

I remember there were special ESL classes available in some schools to help migrant students focus on improving their english reading and writing. These special services were however the butt of all jokes, as in going to an ESL class or being referenced to ESL was deemed uncool and embarrassing. 

I married a filipino man so our children's ethnicity is also 100% filipino. We booked our first family holiday this week. We're off to the Philippines in May next year. I'm extremely excited for a number of reasons. 

However my mother pointed out something that I've totally haven't noticed until she mentioned it ... my children don't understand our native language. Ian and I don't speak tagalog at home therefore not exposing their ears and mind to it. It dawned on me I'm going to be taking my kids to a country where they may not understand the people they encounter. Thankfully Philippines is one of those countries where almost everyone does speak english, but still they won't understand the great grandparents or the casual conversations in tagalog between family. 

I also started to wonder whether I'm doing them a disservice by not giving them the opportunity to pick it up? My dad is from another island in the Philippines, he actually speaks another dialect called Cebuano and I've always wished he taught us how to speak that language too. 

Ian actually doesn't really understand tagalog. He was born here and initially his parents did speak to him in tagalog. However he went to childcare really young and was struggling to communicate with his carers. The childcare centre advised his parents to speak to him in english so they can understand what he's saying ... today that's called racial discrimination ... but it was the early eighties and people were more narrow minded back then. So really I need to be the one to take the lead on this second language situation. 

They say the younger the child, the easier it is for them to pick up a new language quickly. Language is like a musical instrument, it needs to be practiced so you don't forget and you remember how to read and play music. It's been awhile since I used my instrument it going to sound horrible ...

If this guy can do it I'm sure my kids have hope.

Do you speak to your children in your native tongue? Any advice on how to get children to participate in replying or speaking back in another language?
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