By Alice Lapuerta
What to do about that Other Language? The third one.
The one that is definitely under-represented in our household, because the native speaker who is supposed to represent it, aka The Hubby, is not always here to speak it, on account of a very demanding full-time job that includes frequent business trips abroad.
This, in addition to our decision to undergo The Great Language shift several years ago because of various reasons (switching from one-parent-one-language (OPOL) to minority language English as family language@home) resulted in Spanish taking the position of the poor Cinderella stepchild. It gets acknowledged only now and then.
Trips to Ecuador to visit the abuelos are rare, and even though we try to compensate by traveling to Spain instead, those trips aren’t any more frequent, either. Spanish resources here in Austria are as good as nonexistent. Our DVDs are dubbed in English and Swiss German, but not in Spanish. There are no other Spanish speaking kids in our monolingual Village with whom we could meet up for playgroups. And no, we don’t want to have an au pair, so that option won’t work for us, either.
I worry that we are fake trilinguals now, wanna-be multilinguals, bilinguals parading around as trilinguals, because we have a pretty decent command over German and English, but Spanish, alas, is doomed to go down the drains. It’s frustrating to say the least.
So what can one do?
Such is life: you’ve got do the best with what you have. So when hubby’s not here to speak Spanish, I do.
I know that some say if a language isn’t your native one you probably shouldn’t speak it. Because, oh horror, what if the kids end up with your accent? Or your bad grammar? What if they end up as semi-linguals as a result? Terrible!
As far as I am concerned I will listen to all those arguments and theories politely, and then pull up my sleeves and get down to the reality of OUR situation. Because it all looks very different in every-day life.
Our breakfast table at 6:30am: Either one of us speaks a language that is not his or her native one (English for The Hubby or Spanish for me) – complete with accent, bad grammar and poor vocabulary. Or, if that is just too dreadful to behold, the only other option left for us is that we just don’t communicate AT ALL. Period. This second option is rather ridiculous – some language (even rudimentarily spoken) must be better than none at all.