Yesterday we accompanied Lara to her first multi-lingual birthday party! A mexican colleague of ours was celebrating his little man's first birthday with a small gathering of family, parents and babies.
I'm not sure I really knew what I was expecting, but when we arrived, they had produced signs around the house, and even a menu, in both English and Spanish. It was only really when the other guests started to arrive that I panicked and thought, hang on, the rest of the afternoon is going to be conducted in Spanish, and I'm going to be totally lost! Then the door opened, and some suspiciously non-latino-looking guests walked in, I breathed a sigh of relief... and then overheard them speaking German to one another!
I don't know why I was so panicked. My husband and I are both relatively comfortable when it comes to European languages. Between us, we can handle enough German, Spanish, French, Italian and even Greek to get by on holidays. I think it was probably the slight feeling of inadequacy as a parent that put me on edge. All of the other children in the house were being brought up to speak two languages, fluently. There were toddlers speaking their first words and reading their first books, in two different tongues; slightly older children crashing round the house, slipping almost imperceptibly from one language to the other. It was impressive, and something I would LOVE to be able to offer Lara.
Sadly, we just don't have any reason or drive to speak anything other than English at home. I've also heard that for a largely mono-lingual baby, it can be very disruptive to their language skills to hear different languages at an early age... although I'm not that sure how much I believe that.
At some point during 2010, my little sister is going to marry into a Spanish-speaking family. Its a complicated story, but we are hoping that next summer, there will be a transatlantic, intercontinental, multi-faith, multi-lingual wedding celebration. Now, there's as good an excuse as any to brush up on our Spanish, and to introduce Lara to her first foreign words.
Have any of you brought your child up to speak more than one language? Do you speak a second language yourself? How do you differentiate between one and another at an early age?