Growing up my sister and I were fortunate that my grandmother lived at my home and spoke Korean to us all the time. Although I was born and raised in the United States, I only knew a little English when I went to kindergarten. (I picked it up from watching Sesame Street on television.)
I never felt that speaking Korean was a disadvantage for my education. In fact, I was lucky that our public school offered the opportunity for me to learn other languages. (Spanish in junior high and Russian through the four years of high school.) I ended up majoring in English at college and became an English teacher after graduation. After experiencing multilingual education, I want the same opportunities for my children.
Finding Time for Multilingual Education
My oldest daughter was born in South Korea and came to the U.S. when we adopted her at 15 months old. She had a language delay in addition to other developmental delays. We still tried to speak to her Korean so it can help her with the adjustment and made her comfortable. Now that she is in third grade, I realize that my daughter has very little exposure to the Korean language since my husband and I don’t speak it at home.
When my mother or mother-in-law come to visit, they do try to speak Korean to our kids, but due to the limited time of their stay, the girls’ Korean language abilities are pretty much a few short phrases and a few songs. I’m starting to wonder how and when to make the time for them to learn other languages in their already busy schedules!
My mom has urged me to put both of our girls in a Korean school, but classes are mostly offered on weekends through the Korean churches of the area. They often take a big chunk of time so it just doesn’t seem a viable option for our family. Luckily, we found a mom who lived nearby and taught private French lessons from her home. Lila enjoyed the weekly lessons, and learned quite a bit in a short time (I was super impressed with the way that young children can pick up the correct pronunciation so quickly!)
Now that both kids are in full-day school, I’ve looked into other language classes in the area. However, the reality of finding time and the money for it, still makes me wonder if we would be able to make it all work. I wish there were easier ways to integrate multilingual education into our daily lives like when I was growing up. However, I know we can do it if we set it as a priority. If you have found ways to incorporate multilingual education into your children’s lives, please feel free to share what has worked for your family!by