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Wednesday, 9 January 2013

The greatest gift

I’ve read the post on Spanglish Baby where one mother has made it her New Year’s resolution to learn German, one of her husband’s languages. It reminded me of something that has happened within our family.

For a while, on some days, my husband would come home late. Sometimes it would be Mondays, or Wednesdays or Thursdays. I fed the children, got them to bed, and spent the rest of my evening staring at my computer screen in total exhaustion, or just lying on the couch, doing nothing. And then, around 11pm, my husband would come home.

Now, I didn’t complain that I just spend a whole day with the children and felt utterly exhausted. I didn’t complain that he came home so late that we didn’t even eat dinner together. I didn’t complain because my husband was in The Hague, learning Polish.

When he told me, he wanted to learn Polish, I was surprised. After all, I spoke perfect German and felt proud that my husband never had to learn Polish. But he wanted to, and I was happy to help.

I found a Polish teacher, and in short time, we decided on duration (8 classes per 2 hours), cost and material. Then, the classes started, and I was amazed. While my husband understood some of the basic things I said to our children, he quickly caught up on the more complicated stuff.

In many aspects, Polish is different from all the languages my husband speaks (German, English and French). But, his knowledge of other language is definitely a benefit since I could draw comparisons wherever I saw them. He only took 8 lessons, but the experience has been invaluable.

First, I loved doing homework together. We all cuddled on the couch, and my husband would work on his assignments, ask questions, and tell me what he has learned. There were funny moments when Klara would provide him with the correct answer, or even correct him.

Even though his classes are over, my husband still asks me whether he understood something correctly. He wants to translate sentences into Polish, he asks me how to say something in Polish. He shows a lot of interest and commitment.

Finally, his decision to learn Polish has had a huge effect on the children. Klara prefers to speak German, and claims that she doesn’t speak any Polish (even though she says that in perfect Polish), and my husband is her favourite parent. When she hears him asking questions about Polish, she may think that it is somehow a cool language because her beloved dad is learning it. He encourages her to speak Polish with me, and explains why it is important. He helps her to differentiate between the many languages that we speak.

I couldn’t have been happier and prouder of my husband. Learning a new language took a great deal of commitment, motivation and time- and he already works long hours on top of that. I can’t be thankful enough for what he did. With just one decision, he learned a new language, made Polish look way cooler in our childrens’ eyes, and made my work of raising multilingual children much easier. Thank you.

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