Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Kia Ora - One Mother's Non-Native Māori Adventure

Yesterday I was reading a post on the Multilingual Living website which asked for its members to finish the following sentence :-

'I feel like my multilingual parenting journey is....'

I was struck by the words of one member who wrote the followong:-

'Like a walking along a long a varied shoreline in changable weather. Sometimes the sands are golden and beautiful bustling with energy and life. Sometimes the sand is hot and your are jumping side to side wondering how you are going to make... it to the waters edge. Sometimes the journey is cold and lonely and the waves break furiously seemlingly out of control around you and things feel helpless, hopeless out of control. Sometime I look over with envy at monolingual families who have all the beachwear and gear and we struggle to dig with sticks and shells building our language. Mostly its like hanging and talking in the warm sun about whatever it is we are doing feeling or creating for the future, all in our language and knowing no matter how difficult the journey is, we are on in for an amazing adventure which others will join as we go.'

Talk about summing the whole thing up perfectly. This is exactly what multilingual parenting (certainly from my non-native standpoint) feels like.
Interestingly, this family's story is another fabulous non-native one! The Maman in this family studied Māori (her heritage language) as an adult at university. She has spoken exclusively Māori with her son for the full nine years of his life and now this little boy can laugh and joke and fully express his personality in this language which, of course, for him is a native language. It is this idea of expressing humour in a language that really strikes me - not easily done and a real mark of bilingual ability.

That such non-native bilingual sucess can be achieved, with a language where resources and native language speakers are so scarce, should be a real motivator to those of us out here that are aiming for bilingualism for our children with a far more main stream language pair.


  1. I feel as if I am treading water on most days...I think that parent really summed up how many of us are feeling about our journey. I do wonder as well how the non-Native compares to the Native speaker. I try not to think about it, but I get really lost in these thoughts at times.

    I guess we just do it, and the end result is something that we can actually see...that makes me feel good (on some days).

    Take care, and thanks for sharing.

  2. Wow, thank you SO much for sharing that. She definitely summed it up well!