Questions and answers vol 5

It occurred to me that I still haven't finished answering all the questions that were posed to me at Is there anything you'd like to know about me? so - here I go, answering the ones that are still "hanging".

Sorry for taking so long! I'd forgotten =)

6. Do you speak Estonian to your child? Do you find it hard in a rural and mostly monolingual community (I'm assuming because I lived in a small town in Australia for 6 years :)?

In short: yes, yes I do, and yes, yes it is!

I speak to The Kid in Estonian because I want him to be able to speak to - and understand - my side of the family, many of whom don't sport very fancy English levels. (Though it's not entirely foolproof either because many of my family are Russian speakers, so knowing Estonian really only gives access to about 2/3 of my family - with the rest it will probably still have to be English!)

It has got a bit easier with time now, but for the first year and a half it was really hard! Apart from Skype conversations I have with family and friends there is no-one I talk to in Estonian, you know, live so speaking to The Kid felt, at times, like I was speaking to myself: I would be, say, changing his nappy and talking in Estonian, and he would just lay there and... look at me. Now he at least babbles back to me, but back then he didn't talk at all so it really did feel like I was talking to myself.

The other thing where I need to keep having backbone is when I'm dealing with medical professionals, childcare professionals and speech and language therapists.

Given the number of immigrants in New Zealand it surprises me that information about bilingual speech development isn't more widely known and available, but I keep encountering professionals who ask me, "Is he still not talking yet?" and then ask me why I insist on talking to The Kid in Estonian. Some have even suggested that I speak to him both in English and in Estonian, to "help" his language development speed along.

And at those times, I keep repeating to myself: just give it time and be patient, girl.

I know from my own upbringing and from growing up in a community where a third of my classmates were from bilingual families that, one, bilingual children generally take longer to start talking and, two, it is helpful to stick to "one person, one language", so that rather than having "this language is Estonian, and this language is English", there is instead "this is mummy's language, and this is daddy's language".

Yes, it is frustrating that The Kid isn't talking yet, but I can also see that he understands both me and The Man, and he can follow quite complex instructions both in English and in Estonian, so we're really only waiting for his talking abilities to catch up.

For now, I have made a deal with our speech and language therapist, and our Plunket support person, and our GP that we will wait until The Kid is three years old and if by then he still hasn't started using actual words (baby words don't count, because he does have certain words he uses for things, but you won't find any of them listed in dictionaries), then we will start working with our speech and language therapist - but until then, we will just let The Kid develop at his own pace.

So it's probably been hard mostly for those two reasons: that I have needed to learn to keep talking in Estonian, even if it feels like I'm talking to walls, and to keep having confidence in my child's ability to pick it up and process it at his own time.

Okay, I've gotta go now, but I'll answer the rest soon!

And previous answers are can be found at:

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