Four languages, three cultures and more …
We speak four languages with each other. We represent at least three cultures. We have different colors of skin! We are a bunch of weirdo’s and we love it!
My sons are half Moldovan – half Sri Lankan. I’m half Moldovan – half Ukrainian! And my husband is 100 % Italian. They consider Russian and Romanian their native languages. They speak fluently English and some Italian. I speak to my boys mostly in Russian. Romanian was the language they used while we lived in Moldova. My husband speaks English to my elder son and Romanian to my younger son. Four languages spoken in one family might be quite overwhelming! And to make things worse we moved to the Netherlands seven months ago and now we are all studying Dutch and, to my extreme amazement, kids picked it up so fast that they are already quite fluent.
Someone might call us eccentric! But we love our unity in diversity and see lots of advantages being multilingual:
Transmitting your native language to children gives them a feeling of self-identity and belonging. My children consider Russian as their mother tongue, as it was the language I spoke to them since they were born. The first alphabet they learnt was Russian. The first language they started to read and write was Russian. All our regular night readings are in Russian. Being able to share with them stories, fairy tales which were part of my own childhood is one of the strongest ties mother and children can have. It connects generations, keeps culture alive.
More languages you know, easier you can learn a new one. It proved to be absolutely true. When we arrived to the Netherlands my boys spoke Russian, Romanian and English. After 6 months of special school they are quite fluent in Dutch. And even their English improved since the school is so international.
Multilingualism helps making friends faster and easier. Another example from the school life of my sons. They go to school where children from all over the world study Dutch. My boys are able to speak all the four language they know with kids and even their fair knowledge of Italian helps them understand Spanish speaking classmates. Their friends are from England, Vietnam, Indonesia, Australia, Belarus and Philippines. And I find it simply awesome!
When you are able to communicate with people in their native language, it breaks the ice and makes them feel comfortable. They are more likely to accept you, to trust you and to become your friend.
Multilingualism stimulates reading. Books in Russian, Romanian and English were the first things we packed when we were preparing to move to the Netherlands. Now, when my children read and write mostly in Dutch, books are the only means to keep their native languages alive. Plus, our favorite books are in Russian and Romanian.
Being able to read masterpieces of world literature in the original, fully grasping the deep sense and splendor of words is one of the benefits of being multilingual. Just imagine reading Tolstoy, Chekhov, Pushkin, Dostoevsky, Eminescu, Aleksandri, Scott and Shakespeare in the original!
We are different and we love it!
Recently my sons and I went to Health Center here in Almere (Netherlands) for vaccination. The nurse looked puzzled and asked my boys: “Where do you come from?” “From Moldova!” – they answered. “You look Asian” – she continued. “Yes, we are half Sri Lankan” – they replied. “Awesome! And what language you just spoke to your mother?” “Russian!” – they exclaimed. I wanted to add that their step father was Italian, but changed my mind when I saw a mixture of awe and confusion in her eyes.
I just thought to myself how lucky and how blessed we are being multicultural:
Our cuisine is rich and diverse. We love Asian, Moldovan, Russian and Italian food. Thanks to my husband we know how to prepare real Italian pizza, “pasta al forno”, “frittata”, “lasagna”, “caprese”, “bruschette” and all kinds of delicacies. And not simply to cook but to enjoy it the way only Italians can enjoy.
We learnt to accept and to appreciate cultural diversity and the uniqueness of other people since we are such bunch of weirdo’s ourselves.
Multiculturalism involves travelling and discovering new places. For example, at least twice a year we visit Italy, but not as idle tourists, but as people who value its traditions and customs, who feel part of its legacy and its people. And having relatives in different countries and not paying for accommodation while visiting is quite an advantage!
My kids consider at least three countries as their home – Moldova, Sri Lanka and Italy. Each one of them is beautiful and unique in its own way. Being exposed to cultural, linguistic, gastronomical, historical heritage of these nations shapes their characters, strengthens their personality and deepens their belief in unity in diversity!
Yes! We represent a mixture of cultures and we love it! We cherish and salute our multilingualism and our diversity. And though my children have very clear Moldovan identity they are truly the world citizens!
P.S This post is part of the International Mother Language Day celebration campaign #IMLD
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