At first glance this sounds like a daunting task. How can we question everyone and everything? Who has time for something like that? We should be living multilingually every second that we can, not wasting it on questionnaires, right?
Plus, why would we want to walk around questioning everyone and everything? We should be helping ourselves and our families find a sense of security and safety in this world of ours, not putting everything into question, right? What if we ask too many questions and realize that our carefully constructed beliefs are wrong, inaccurate and fallible? Who needs that!
Questioning everyone and everything is not about deconstructing everything around us. It is not about letting go of comforts and well-worn beliefs. In fact, it isn’t about giving up anything. It is actually exactly the opposite!
Questioning everyone and everything is about seeing the world as it is. It is about living in it as it is. It is about understanding it (and ourselves) just as it is (and just as we are).
Questioning everyone and everything is about embracing life exactly as it is because questioning it gives us the opportunity to actually understand it fully and completely. Without questioning, we live in a kind of delusion of our own beliefs of what other people are thinking, saying and meaning.
Here are some examples:
Question Authority: When we read research or hear an authority speak about something, we need to make sure to keep our thinking mind on. We need to continually question what the research is all about and what it is trying to tell us: Who is paying for the research? Who is doing the research? What were the actual findings? How were the findings analyzed? Who reviewed the resulting research paper(s)?
These are just a few questions that need to be asked to fully understand information coming from people in positions of authority. Before making an important decision for your family’s multilingual journey based purely on research that you read or heard, make sure that you understand the research fully. Question it from all angles so that you can understand what it really has to say. Who knows, next year more research may come out proving exactly the opposite.
Question Friends and Family: When someone gives us advice or shares information with us or tells us their opinion, we need to question them, even if it is only in our own hearts and minds. Who is sharing the information with us? Why are they giving us this advice? What are they really trying to say? They love us so they must be wanting to tell us something out of their love and concern. Or perhaps they are scared about something or worried about our children’s futures? What is their motivation to speak with us about this issue?
To really understand what someone is sharing with us, we need to view things from their perspective. Too often we view it through our own lens and make assumptions rather than drilling down to what is really going on. Questioning our friends and family is about giving them the chance to share what is really on their minds (often it has little to do with what they said in the first place). But this kind of questioning demands that we have big, wide, open hearts so that we can really hear what our friends and family have to say to us. The best kind of questioning leads to discussion, not attacks.
Question Ourselves: This is the big one! Being that we are human, we are all riddled with fear, anxiety, worry, concern and arrogance on different levels and to differing degrees and at different times. We often view our world, and thus our multilingual parenting journey, through our own emotions. Having a good day? Then our multilingual parenting journey feels as if it is on track. Having a bad day? Then we are ready to throw in the towel.
Questioning ourselves is simply asking ourselves why we are interpreting things the way that we are. Are things really as bad as they seem? Do our children really hate our language as much as they say? Is the fact that little Johnny doesn’t want you to speak in your language in front of his friends really the end of the world? And then there is the other side of things: Is your family really better than every other family because you are a multilingual family? Is teaching your child that your culture is better than any other culture really beneficial to your child?
Putting ourselves down or over-inflating our egos are both signs that we are not questioning our attitudes enough. Nothing in our multilingual parenting journey is as black and white as this. Multilingualism is simply too multifaceted for such extremes. And ultimately, it will do our children no good if we are stuck in a mindset that will not allow for questioning.
Questioning everyone and everything is about finding balance in life. We are all in this boat together, even the cranky neighbor who doesn’t seem to like you and the person on the bus who seems to hate your language and the kids at school who think your child is strange for having parents who grew up in another country. In fact, thank goodness for those people who force us to question what we are doing! It make us even more clear about who we are and where we are headed.
We have to be careful not to create stories about ourselves and others. Questioning everyone and everything gives us the opportunity to see things from different angles and to avoid the The Elephant and the Blind Men syndrome from taking us over. Multilingual parenting is a joy because of the continual need to find balance in a world of limitless contrasts.
And the most important of all: when we learn how to question everyone and everything, we pass on this amazing gift to our children. It will help them truly succeed in life, above and beyond that which any textbook can teach them!
We are going through the alphabet one letter at a time, multilingual-style! Join in the fun and add your own ideas, suggestions and tips in the comments below that begin with today’s letter! Check out all of the ABC’s of Multilingual Parenting posts so far!