Ever since I married a man from another country* I have been looking forward to raising a bilingual family. Trilingual, even, since my husband is from a neighboring country with a different, but mutually intelligible, language that we hope to also pass on. I will admit to a certain amount of concerned internet research even before I conceived, until I came to the conclusion that yes, it is possible to raise a multilingual child, and yes, I can do it too.
Then Baby K was born – November 2007 – and Project: Teach the Baby to Talk began. It started showing some results when she showed she understood some words (some English, some Slovak), then managed to actually say a few (some English, some Slovak), and finally, coming up on two years old, started stringing together some two-word sentences (just English). Soon after those first English phrases, we were walking in the park with the Slovak grandparents and Baby K, riding on her Apo’s (Daddy’s) shoulders, pointed to a dog passing on a leash and said, “Where going havo?” (Where is the doggie going?) **
We burst out laughing. We translated for the monolingual grandparents to explain the laughter. Her first bilingual sentence. We realized: Yes, we can raise a bilingual child. Yes, it’s started already. And yes, it’s going to get pretty mixed up along the way!
* Thereby breaking the first rule I received from my mother and grandmother when I announced I was going to the Czech Republic. Breaking the first directly led to breaking the second: Don’t you dare stay over there!
** Or maybe “Where going, havo?” – Where are you going, doggie? She wasn’t very clear in her punctuation.