My son was born in Russia, and, certainly, Russian was his first and, literally, his mother language. His grandmother, babysitter and all the country around him, and I spoke Russian. But he also spoke English with his Dad. We didn’t have any battles back then. He was simply bilingual, and it didn’t bother him at all. Quite the opposite, he was proud of that. Once, I remember we had a transfer in the Paris Airport and we were waiting to check in. He was around 4 years old, jumping between us and talking freely Russian to me and at the same time in English to my husband. He charmed two Ukrainian ladies who were sitting nearby. They asked him impressively: Is it English and Russian you speak?! How do you do that? He said, immediately looking sad: “Well, what else to do? My dad speaks bad Russian and good English (I smiled because I completely agreed with that statement), and my mom,”- continued my son, “speaks bad English and good Russian.” (I was kind of surprised to find out I have bad English, but what to do).
Now we have moved to the US and everything has changed…”I don’t want to go to the Russian School!!! “-I hear every Saturday morning from my son, when we start packing Russian books in the car… “Why?”- I every time look upset and surprised. “ I thought you like Natasha (the teacher) and the kids there? “ “I do! BUT I want to be normal! It’s America, Ma! I don’t need to talk in Russian here. I want to have weekends free like all the kids in my school. Why should I study on Saturday?!” This weekly battle is going on and on.
The same goes for speaking Russian at home. I pretend I don’t understand English and answer in Russian. “My English is bad-remember? “- I told him several times. “Speak Russian to me, please.” It’s not too bad, – he says now,- if only you stop making that Russian accent.” And here we are-he is talking in English again.
I know for many immigrants if not all it’s a battle you don’t want to lose. It’s hard, but you want your child to keep his bilingual skills. We all know how important it is. Does anyone have any advice???