I am originally from Ethiopia, East Africa. I want my kids to know the main language and also the culture. I have cousins here, 4- and 8-years old. They have no idea about Ethiopia. And it makes me so sad to see that. I wish their parents can talk to them in Ethiopian language, at least they will learn the language. They can always speak English when they’re in school.
Every time when a guest or other kids go to their home, they aren’t able to talk to them. They get shy around them and also when they try to say something. They just don’t have the confidence when they are around Ethiopians. That means they cannot be themselves or free.
I don’t have kids yet because I am busy with my full-time job and running a small business. But when I do, I will make sure that they are raised bilingually and bi-culturally.
It’s important for the kids because:
Tradition – Kids will know their heritage. But parents have to play a big role in this; they need to bring the tradition to their home.
Diversity - Their life will have diversity. For example, they will be exposed to other culture’s food, clothes, and music.
Love – I am sorry to say this, but love within the American family is not strong enough. I came from a country where everyone is attached. Kids can stay with their parents till they get married. It’s just the culture to show your families love and support. And if you raise your kids bi-culturally, they will also learn how to love each other.
Language skills – It’s definitely true that raising kids bilingually will benefit the kids. It will develop their language skills. It’s helpful for them to know more people, to engage with the society, and even they grow up, it will beautify their resume.
But I will say it again, parents are responsible to teach their kids about their culture.
I agree with Bill Belew’s tips on how to raise your kids bilingually and bi-culturally.
I have seen the effect on my cousins; their parents are seeing the advantage now, too.
But I wish they had started earlier because now the kids are not comfortable with speaking in any language other than English.
As the professor suggested, their parents are taking my cousins to Ethiopia this Summer, to learn about the culture and the language. But the problem is, how are they going to communicate there? Guess they will have to figure out a way.