I was fascinated to see a recent thread on the Your Talks forum asking what languages people would like to learn.
I thought it was an unusual question to ask. But I was surprised to see that more than 40 people responded and more than 300 read the thread.
Americans often are criticized for our lack of foreign language awareness. So I was pleased to see how much interest there was in the topic.
At about the same time as that thread, my son and his family visited for a few days. My son is a linguist – he studies languages for a living – and his wife is Japanese. They’re raising their daughter, now almost 2, to be fluent in both languages.
But that isn’t all. Her day care provider is Spanish. So she is learning three languages simultaneously.
I was a little confused when Amelia politely asked for agua. “What’s that,” I asked.
My son walked in the room just in time to interpret. “That’s water in Spanish,” he said.
I knew that. I just wasn’t expecting my Japanese-American granddaughter to ask for a glass of water in Spanish.
Jason, my son, talks to Amelia in English. So do my wife and I (as if there was any alternative).
Sachi talks to Amelia in Japanese. So do her parents and family members when they visit.
The idea is that Amelia will quickly learn to talk to Anglos in English and Asians in Japanese. She’ll be able to switch gears in mid-sentence.
I’m not sure where the Spanish fits in.
Both Jason and Sachi also speak Chinese. They don’t use it around the house much, though, so Amelia is safe from that one.
While I don’t envy Amelia now – it’s tough enough being 2 without having to learn all those extra words – I’ll be very jealous down the road when she’s fluent in three languages.
I struggle to learn enough Spanish or German to order a meal at a restaurant while on vacation. But that’s okay – you can always point at the pictures on the menu.