To mark Fathers’ Day, I thought I’d reflect on what multicultural and multilingual fatherhood is all about. As the dad of a son who’s recently celebrated his second birthday, I’ve got to say that this is something that I’m still in the process of figuring out. However, my wife and I have certainly tried our best to expose our son to different languages and cultures.
As I mentioned in one of my first ever posts on my own blog, my wife and I have been bringing up our son using both Welsh and English. We live in an area of Wales where the majority of the people speak Welsh as their first language and our son is likely to go to schools where he will be taught in Welsh. As neither of us is originally from Wales, this has brought with it certain challenges.
It would have been much easier for my wife and I to have decided to just speak to our son in English, but we decided to think about what would be best for him in terms of both his schooling and being able to mix with other children in the area who will have grown up speaking Welsh as well as English. This has taken us both on a bit of a journey. I started learning Welsh after moving to North Wales in 2007 to take up a job teaching French at Bangor University. Now, using Welsh, English and French on a daily basis is a part of my work that I take for granted.
Having said that, Welsh is perhaps not the easiest language to learn. Indeed, it takes a while before most learners are able to pronounce the name of a local village that claims to have the longest name of any place in the UK. Some places easily roll of the tongue, but this isn’t really true of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. Nevertheless, pronunciation in Welsh is a lot more regular than it is in English.
Bringing up our son with both languages predominantly involves me speaking Welsh to him and my wife speaking English to him. That said, my wife has also been helping to make sure that our son grows up with both languages by going to a parent and child Welsh class and we’ve both taken him to family events that have been run in Welsh or both Welsh and English.
Our son tends to say quite a lot more in English than in Welsh, probably because he spends more time with my wife than with me due to our respective work arrangements. However, he managed to count to ten in Welsh before he’d managed to do so in English. In addition, there are certain Welsh words that our son regularly uses when he’s speaking English. These include chwarae pêl–droed (play football) and pili-pala (butterfly). This has led to him confusing some our relatives by coming out with phrases such as ‘I want to chwarae pêl-droed’.
As our son grows up, we’d like to exposure him to lots of different cultures, countries and languages. Although he may not remember it, we went to France with him on our first family holiday when he was just under five months old. This summer, we’ll soon be heading back to France and it’ll be fun to see how he responds to the food and hearing a different language. As he grows up, I’d love it if he learned to speak French too although I don’t want to put pressure on him and will probably wait until he’s speaking more Welsh.
We have tried to exposure our son to food from a variety of different places, which has worked fairly well so far. As I’m from Scotland, I am very pleased that he has already had his first taste of vegetarian haggis and that he seems to like it. I’m also hoping that he’ll inherit the love of Indian food that my wife and I share, but we’ve been careful not to give him anything too spicy. He used to be quite keen on lentils and currently likes rice and popadoms, which is a good start. He’s also keen on Chinese food, especially noodles and tofu.
As he grows up, I hope that our son gets a taste for all sorts of different cultures. I’m not sure that he’s inherited my love of French films yet, especially as he slept through almost all of Oscar-winner The Artist (…although he was under two weeks old at the time). However, he has watched some early Lumiere brothers films a good few times (…mainly because they’re quite short and one of the most well-known ones features a train). I guess it’s a start!