I speak, French,
I speak Swa
I speak English
I speak Giriama
I speak Chinese yada yada yada.. the list goes on.
There’s a debate in Denmark about Bi-ligual children;about how they are not good enough at Danish and as a result are failing in school. My danish teacher once explained it to me after my rant about the media reharshing this topic over and over . (I have a tendency to take things personal even when it does not apply to me). He said that the issue is not that the kids do not know danish.. oh well it is.. but that by being bi-ligual (speaking danish only out of home and whatever else at home) the children never fully develop a vocabulary in either language. So they neither excell at Danish nor their mother tongue. The problem is primarily concentrated within inner-city kids.
Today’s headlines had me pondering intertribal marriages back home into which many children are born, especially in the city and big towns. What then is thier language and does the rise of intertribal marriages accross Africa mean the slow but sure death of local languages. How many of you guys here can say you are PROFICIENT in all the languages you speak.Personally, I wouldn’t dare put my hand up. English is my mother tongue. My mother being Kenyan and dad Ugandan meant that the first language I was exposed to at home for the first 3 years of my life was English. When they separated my mum spoke to us in English,Swahili and occasionaly her local language. I picked up her language by hearing it at home. We always had maids from mother’s village and lived with a few of my relatives throughout my childhood. In actual fact from the time I was 3 I was constantly exposed to 3 languages at home at all times. As a result my abilities in languages ranks as follows.
English: Excellent both oral and written (though my grammar leaves a lot to be desired).
Swahili: Good orally and ok written.
Danish: Good orally and ok written (as a result of living here for over 3 years and having to speak it outside of my house.)
Dad’s language: okayish orally, hopless written (learned it informally from form 1 till I left Ug 8 years ago)
Mum’s language: will speak under duress but understand it fully… actually better than dad’s but speak dad’s better however do not understand as widely.
French: Studied it from form 1 to university: did not use it after leaving uni.. so it all’s in there. I read it best. Speaking is now difficult since I find I mix it with danish. Writing it is but a fantasy.
So far my son cannot speak intelligibly but has an understanding of English and Danish. His father speaks to him only in Danish and I speak only English. I won’t lie, I sometimes worry because he is rather behind on his speech, but everyone from the doctor to the child carers at his daycare say that his speech development is typical of bilingual children. An old accquaintance (she is English and ex is danish) told me her son first spoke properly when he was 4 and he spoke both danish and english perfectly from then on.