Well, I'm back in UK, visa in hand, after two weeks in rainy Prague. K's CZ/SK took an upswing but nothing too terribly dramatic. Sadly I forgot to keep a list of new words or anything like that.
In going through Bilingual for Fun's archives recently I happened upon this article and it reminded me of this post that I had read a while before and stuck with me. Smashedpea's daughter went on strike for days anytime someone praised her or commented positively on her German. But…praise is good, right? I pondered that one for a while.
When I started thinking about how I react to praise with regard to language, it suddenly made a bit more sense. Praise IS good. I like praise and if someone compliments my language ability it can make my day. BUT – praise also singles me out from others (native speakers). It marks me as other . It means I still have improvement to make: if I spoke perfectly, no one would compliment me because they wouldn’t know there was anything unusual about it. What praise in this case really says is, “I caught you! I notice you are foreign/different/not as good at this as me. Good job though.”
So I guess I can see quite well why a child might be embarrassed and annoyed about being singled out, maybe. There could be countless other reasons feeding into it, too.
I haven’t had a similar experience with my daughter, probably because of her age, but I know it could come up at some point. And actually, thinking about it, I don’t think that we do praise K for using Slovak. I didn’t really consider it. Writing that makes me feel like a bad mother…we do praise her for other things, really!
Maybe it’s because we don’t name the languages to her yet, so we would have to compliment her on “saying something the way Apo says it”…which sounds kind of awkward. I think I may have praised her for using language in general – thank you for using your words (and not your screams) – but not for saying something in her weaker language. Ideally, it should just be part of life, right? I guess we’ll see how far that attitude takes us.
I always notice it when she says something particularly good in Slovak, but I don’t make a big deal of it to her. Like when she said her first two-word Slovak sentence, Apo and I pointed at her and mouthed WOW at each other behind her back, and later probably put it on Facebook and told our parents and whatever. And I may have blogged about it after that. But I guess I didn’t mention it to her. So maybe I have taken smashedpea's lesson to heart.