Monday, January 14, 2013

Learning Nepali

Out of the three people in our little family, one of us is doing an amazing job learning Nepali, the other 2 know only a word here or there.  The best Nepali learner award goes to: Tegan!  Granted, she doesn't really speak a whole lot yet, but she certainly understands what her nanny says to her.

Jeremiah and I have discussed and thought about language for Tegan and our family.  There are a lot of questions.  We're in Nepal for who knows how long?  Nepali is certainly not a common world language, will she ever use it in the future?  Is it confusing to her now as she is developing English and baby sign language?  Will she continue when she starts school or switch to a language commonly offered in international schools if/when we move again?  What do we want for her in terms of being multilingual?

We've decided learning Nepali now, regardless of how she is able to use it in the future, only has benefits for her language and brain development.  We will re-evaluate her languages when she starts school and think long-term about adding languages for academic and communication purposes. 

In our travels and jobs we have seen children who have successfully added many languages, and children who struggle in new languages and even in their first language.  My advice to parents moving abroad: don't take your child's language acquisition lightly.  Think long-term.  I'm no expert here, but here are some considerations I see need to be processed:

-Age of children and how long you will be away from your home country.
-What language will their school operate in?  (depending on your host country, there may be international schools in English, local school in the local language, or options for continuing education in other languages)
-Will they someday return to your home country and need to go to school there? (if they attend an international school in English will they be able to return to a non-English speaking country and pick back up?  Where will they go to college and what language will they need?)
-Will they be able to communicate with their extended family?
-How will you support their much needed continued acquisition of their first language?

Yes, children learn languages much more easily than adults, but that doesn't mean sitting in a classroom not understanding what is happening around you, or going back to your home country unable to read the signs, is not hard.  There are pros and cons, benefits and consequences to weigh. 

I like the short and sweet nature of this article: Local Language or Not? about acquiring what the author labels "temporary" languages.

1 comment:

  1. We are living in Germany and my family is learning the language which is very difficult. Of course our youngest expat~now 10 has learned much faster then any of us! Like your thoughts, not sure how much he will use it, but they say once you learn one language, it is easier to learn more. And in the mean time, he can translate for me :)