Home > Bilingualism, Language Acquisition, parenting > Destiny of My Son’s Serbian

Destiny of My Son’s Serbian

I am trying to speak Serbian to my son as much as I can. Whenever I can. But because I am not always consistent, I tried to come up with some guidelines. Not rules, because rules do many bad things to me: they turn me off; they make me forget (ignore) them; they make me turn my back (give up) on the whole thing. That’s why I decided to have only guidelines:

* When Andrei and I are alone, at home and in public, we speak Serbian.

* When we are in the company of others, we speak to others in English, but I always speak to Andrei in Serbian. (Now this gets complicated fast: What about the times I need to address both Andrei and another kid who doesn’t speak Serbian? What about the other “triangular” situations where Andrei and I are having a conversation with a non-Serbian-language-speaking person?)

* When my husband, Andrei, and I are spending time together we mostly speak English so we can have conversations about non-language-related things. However, we have a lot of language-related conversations as well infused with quite a bit of Serbian (How do you say “Let’s go downtown” ). And it’s lovely when Andrei or Michael switches to Serbian.

* We try to read as many books in Serbian as we can (at least two at bedtime).

* And we try to listen to a lot of Serbian music.

* And Mama sings mostly in Serbian.

I am happy to hear my son repeat my Serbian sentences. I am happy to hear him string the Serbian words together (at this point, it’s never more than two). I love to hear my son speak – period – but I prefer hearing Andrei answer my Serbian questions in Serbian to his answering me in English. When he does answer in English, which happens often, I usually repeat what he just said in Serbian.

Andrei seems to dream in English. He talks a lot during the night. Play with Taya. Wash hands. No! Mine! OK. I take it. All sorts of things. All of them in English. I have never heard him say anything in Serbian during the night.

On the other hand, he tends to sing mostly in Serbian. We have made Serbian music a big part of our life. We sing and dance in Serbian.

My tango shoesYes, sometimes I have that fear that my son’s Serbian will never take off. Or, that it will share the fate of my adventures with a bike, a car, and tango. All three of them, the bike, the car, and tango I absolutely loved (or at least respected – in the case of car) at one point in my life. The feeling of having waves of air smash against my face. Being able to sit in the car and in a few hours to be at some completely different place. And tango, tango, tango, what felt like the most beautiful dance in the world, floating over the floor to the rhythm of the music that was making me high. And all three of them I allowed to simply disappear from my life despite the fact that I cared for them. I haven’t ridden a bike in over twenty years and I am convinced I forgot how to despite the fact that people commonly use this as an example of something you can never forget. I literally forgot how to drive a car. And I can hardly remember any specific tango steps or figures.

Languages can be forgotten. Forgotten enough.

I don’t know what the destiny of my son’s Serbian will be. I know whatever role in my son’s life Serbian has, I’ll have to be OK with it. I know my job is to bring Serbian into my son’s life the best I can and then let go. Not create expectations. Not create guilt. Only talk as much as I can. Give Serbian as a gift. Read. Sing.

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  1. November 28, 2011 at 10:47 pm

    You are an awesome mama, in any language! Having been in your presence when you address Andrei in Serbian, I can say it is lovely to hear you pass on your language to him. As another mom, I would have no trouble with you speaking Serbian to Luke also. Although he would not understand the words, he is still young enough to decipher meaning using context, tone, and body language. You never know, you might be successful communicating with other children at least for the next year or two. I can see how this could be complicated for you, though. Wishing you luck as you move forward with this!

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