On Bilingual Mothers who Are Not Really Bilingual

I’m Polish. Bred and raised. Yet my daughter (now almost 2.5 years old, as she says: she’s “two o’s”) wields only her own mother tongue (aka English) , except a few occasional: “kocham”, “czesc” or “dzieki”.

Since Arya’s day one, I have been feeling guilty about this fact although I consciously made a choice not to speak to her in Polish mostly out of of convenience (I don’t have Polish speakers around me to converse on a daily basis). The guilt is coming from the societal (and sociolinguistic) view on raising children in a bilingual family. I’ve heard million times: “You should speak to Arya in your language, it’s really bad you don’t”.

And for the whole list of the reasons I have learnt when studied linguistics I do know they are right. Yes, Bilingual children are smarter, geniuses and they know a second language by default.

For years now I t has been hard for me to speak Polish. I don’t speak Polish daily. My family doesn’t call me regularly for chats in my native tongue, I don’t work with Polish people, I don’t have many Polish friends who I meet often. I breathe, think and speak English (far from RP, but I still do). I have been for over 12 years now (even in the Uni before than we spoke English all the time because we studied in English). How am I supposed to suddenly switch? 

And yes the dark cloud of guilt follows me every day and I don’t need gurus on trains and occasional encounters telling me “YOU SHOULD” like I’m depriving my daughter of her basic rights. Go back to your lives and let me live with my guilt in my own world. I promise, Arya will speak Polish before I die.

 

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