Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Corners of the Mind

I wonder what paths my head would take if it were not filled with juggling three languages, all the music that is going through it and all the "normal" things that go with working, playing and caring for a baby. When I was 11 I had my IQ tested, and my guess would be I'm a lot dumber now, in spite of all I know. What happened? Have I been a victim of dumbing-down?

There is the theory of "Mommy Brain", which women are prone to it seems. It's the ability to multitask on a huge level: have a pot on the stove and answer the phone while changing the diapers with your hair in curlers and a wrinkle-reducing masque on your face for tonight's romantic evening - you get the idea. I'm not that good at multitasking and hate being interrupted while practicing (or blogging). So why, when I try to read anything academic or that requires concentration, I find myself shaking my head and asking: is this even English? How come I don't understand a thing?

I have been wondering what to do with our son - he will be raised tri-lingually. All the advice points to keeping the paths straight: one parent adheres to one language, the other parent to the other language, no seeping allowed. Then the third language comes "on the street" or in school. Any advice?

Also, we have been wondering about Waldorf education, starting with kindergarten. The fact that they don't do reading or math until age 7 is OK with me. If he is like either of his parents, he will learn by himself by about age 3. We also have tons of books at home so he will be in no way deprived.


  1. Hi Helen,

    Interesting thoughts.. I'm swedish, and have spoken that language non-stop to our twin boys, now almost 10. They understand, but talk back in english. My wife is american and bilingual english/spanish, so we had the kids in a dual-language immersion program through the middle of 4th grade. We just switched and put them into the local Waldorf school. The boys have mild special-needs learning issues, and the whole-child whole-body learning style at Waldorf seems much better suited to them, and all of a sudden they like school :). Super-talented musically, and not so academically inclined, at least not yet. We've wondered if throwing 3 languages at them from the start, plus some of the natural delays from being twins have in some way held them back.

    As to the languages.. just stick to it. I found it really natural to speak swedish to the kids, just the same as with the rest of my family.

    Multi-tasking.. I think is passe :). Any studies I've read about it recently point to that it is ineffective, and our brains aren't made to work that way. Sure applies to myself, anyway.

    best, --Lars

  2. Thanks Lars! Sorry for the delay in showing your comment, only just now learned how to moderate and publish them.
    Appreciate your insights, best wishes, Helen!

  3. Jennifer BorkowskiMonday, February 08, 2010

    Hi Helen! We've got a tri-lingual girl who, English, Spanish, German. The trick was with German, her third language. She had to wait until she got to school until she really needed to speak. In her kindergarten, everyone understood her English and used it more than they should have. This left her with a good two years of false translations and the not-so-nice habit of simply tuning the German out while she waited for the English to come. Any advice would be to insist that the kindergarten teachers stick with German so that he doesn't go through an unnecessary delay.

    She was saying things like, "Mommy, in English it's called lasagna, in German it's called gut." You can imagine the mix she was hearing. "Julia, do you like your lasagna? Ist das gut?" That wasn't so bad, but the tuning the German out part was tough to get over. I know it will be tempting for caregivers to switch to English, but try to convince them not to.