If you live in a country whose official language differs from your own, when you try to decide which language to use with your children, many different considerations will come to mind.
It is perfectly legitimate for each individual to decide which language to use according to their own best judgement. Looking back, for me it was most comfortable to speak Hungarian – my mother tongue – with my daughters, which, if I am honest, compensated for some of what distance had taken of my country. This is how I experienced my home in our new home, not only through our conversations and food, but also through so many little details that we might not have even been aware of.
For those who feel they have to make a decision, but are not yet sure which direction to go in, I have put together 10 reasons we should speak in our mother tongue with our children while living abroad.
- Because it is the language we know best, without needing to pay attention to exactly what form and tone the situation requires.
- It is the language in which we can express ourselves with the richest vocabulary and convey our emotions most accurately.
- Because it is a language with as much unique individual richness as any other.
- Because a child can learn any language, even several at the same time, and therefore there is no reason why a parent should not pass on their mother tongue.
- Because then children will be able to keep in touch with their relatives, grandparents, cousins, etc. in your home country.
- Because this helps avoid breaking the narrative that is woven from personal anecdotes at family gatherings.
- Because our children also unconsciously learn many cultural and behavioural elements from us that can be fully complemented with language.
- Because multilingualism will provide your children with many advantages.
- Because you will be giving them an opportunity that they will be grateful for when they grow up.
- Because if they do not start learning the language as a mother tongue when they are young, they may later be forced to learn it as a second language, with all the difficulties that this implies.
I am sure there are many more arguments, and I recommend that you reflect on them! But perhaps the strongest argument would be if you don’t even need to consider these points, because it simply seems obvious to you that your language is the right language to speak with your children.
Paradoxically, the more naturally and confidently you use your mother tongue, the more generous you can be in using the language of the country where you live with your children when the situation requires it.