It’s been more than four years since our reading time at bedtime has turn into an outburst of spontaneity. Theater, dancing and international children tales. Our children are both the entertainers and the audience, and each with equal amount of joy. But when it comes to reading stories we shift languages like a baby changes diapers.
Recently our two-year-old has begun to pick up the books she wants us to read, but I’ll admit, our four-year-old has total control of these events. He now knows more about the tales by image reading and by the sound of the title. So, he has totally overpowered his sister.
For us to keep some balance on this unending fight for who gets to pick which book we will read each night, we tend to read stories in as many languages as possible, with Spanish and French being the ones that lead the whole scenario. You will probably be wondering why are we doing this. I can assure you, cross cultural relationships and their three or four language usage are a source of calming siblings struggles, exclusively when the time for night time story telling comes.
Language and its left hemisphere home base for the right sided batters, and right hemisphere for the lefties keep our neural networks active, as we learn and experience things. But it is in our childhood where these company of neural train hoping dot creating travelers become like the pioneers of old, always on the move to new found land. All those pathways that are constantly created inside their young minds are so incredibly beautiful, it’s like plankton that lights up through movement, a feast of sensitivity and luminescence. If only we could see inside our heads while this neuro transmission happens, if we could visually map that stimulation, we would be amazed.
So, story time, we always start with Spanish books, and that means it is papa’s time to read. It doesn’t matter if they have been fighting just seconds before the reading starts, they always fall under a spell. By the time the second page of the Spanish book is done they are also in a meditative mood. We have seen how regularly they shift from one language to the other and how when we explain things in other languages they follow and understand everything. So, part of our language integration battle is won every time we see how much they truly grasp from this language exchange. We try to speak to them in our native tongues, fluctuating between Spanish and French. English is only used like 20 percent of the time at home, since we live in the USA they are fully exposed to it as soon as we step outside the door.
By the time the second book comes and it’s mama’s time to read, in French, they are completely calmed. The French language has a soothing almost romantic vibrant rhythm. As romantic languages, both Spanish and French could be quite the musical duo. Our children are our number one groupies; our nightly concerts are the best part of the day for them. This is another of those reasons why I am glad to have chosen a partner from another culture, how can this not be one of the most important aspects of a child’s upbringing? To be able to learn languages as part of a daily routine with their parents, helping them to develop parts of the brain as they immerse solely and as often as possible in two or three languages at a time.
If you are wondering or even weighing the possibility of starting a cross cultural relationship, don’t concentrate on the bad, because the bad will always be there. It is the good which makes it worthwhile. Our children are proof of how possible it is for two beings from complete different cultures to come together amidst their unlikely backgrounds. Even though we as adults learn language a bit different than children, there is still an enhanced repercussion on the growth of the brain through new language learning. We seem to be wired for the capacity to learn new languages, as some neuroscience researches have pointed out.
We live in such a global community that realizing how important language is in our children’s education must drive all of us into providing a place for that to happen. Whether through regular classes or by some homeschooling activities, learning a new language should be dominant in any child’s learning years. I have chosen to be part of a cross cultural relationship, and every day I get a taste of how beautiful it is to hear my children speak three different languages.