Officially Diversified

Two days before Nina’s one-month birthday, she got her Australian passport.

Now we’re officially diversified – a household of three with three different passports ūüôā I never would have imagined it possible …

Australian immigration law grants the local-born child with the right of the Australian nationality even if only one of the parents is Permanent Resident (doesn’t have to be citizen, which we are not). So we decided Nina is going to be Australian.

And she is also already legally a French citizen although we haven’t started to apply for a passport for her yet (hey, Mr Sarkozi, do you know how fussy/complicated it is to apply for a French passport overseas when one of the child’s parents is non-French citizen??).

Well,¬†she cannot¬†legally be Chinese at the same time … unfortunately … I will just say this much for now … But I wish she will grow up feeling at least 33% Chinese at/in/with heart.

Now, for anyone who wants to know what it is¬†like to take a young infant’s passport photo¬†– be VERY patient, take LOTS and LOTS of shots, and pray that you will get one that fits the thousands of passport photo criteria.

Reading To Her – The Little Prince

It just so happens that one of my all-time favorite books is ‘The Little Prince’, way before I had the knowledge that it was originally written in French as ‘Le Petit Prince’ by Antoine de Saint-Exupery (who was from Lyon, a city that named its airport after him and has a main square in the city center with a very very lovely statue of the little prince, and of course a few¬†painted walls¬†dedicated to him). Many (many) years back when I was learning French in Shanghai, I bought this Chinese/French bilingual version of ŚįŹÁéčŚ≠ź/Le Petit Prince, and have ever since always been keeping it¬†with me (along with nearly 15 times of moving from country to country).

So what is a better book to read to Nina than this one? The bonus is that Nicolas and I are able to read Chinese and French version respectively from the same book. What a visionary I was back in time! ;p

I always knew that I would read to Nina from very early on, and I started within the first week of Nina’s birth. Of course I know that she wouldn’t understand a word, and she doesn’t care what I am reading, and she wouldn’t even know that this is called reading. I am not expecting any of these. The idea here – which is not mine but linguists and scientists’ – is to allow her build¬† the neural connections (or rather not to lose the capability of building them) that enables her to distinguish the tonality of the language(s) we wish her to speak, and to relate reading as something joyful and interesting part of daily routine.

Research shows that infants are tuned to all the tonalities and nuances in all languages at birth, IF given opportunites for stimulation and exposure. However by the age of 1-2 years¬†or so (I have read different versions, and it’s apparent not hard science), if not given opportunities,¬†they lose the ability to hear the differences.

Of course, Nina would get her normal dose of Chinese/French from the daily conversation (as any parent would be advised, talking to the child is one great way of bonding even it’s a one-way communication verbally to start with), reading from a book certainly expands the¬†variety of tonalities and expression.

On top of it (or rather more importantly), it has always been a pleasure to read this timeless masterpiece. Every time I read this book, I felt peace. Now I’m sharing this with Nina. I hope you like it, ŚįŹŚćó„Äā

The Arrival of Nina B./ šŅěŚáĚŚćó & OPOL

Nina B, aka šŅěŚáĚŚćó, came to the world super on time on the 18th of January, 2012, 3:06pm local Sydney time. She’s a healthy 3.45kg / 51cm baby.

BTW, that made her one of the 5% babies who arrive on their due date (natural birth). One friend commented: ‘she’s already showing a talent of punctuality :)’. Indeed!

The first words spoken to her by her mum was: ‚ÄėšĹ†Ś•Ĺ Nina’, and by her dad: ‘bonjours Nina’. Both mean ‘hello Nina’. With big smiles and amazement of the magical creature we spoke these words. And for me with enormous relief that the labour was F I N A¬†L L Y over.¬†I had a natural delivery using only gas – the official document says that the labour lasted only 5 hours 44 minutes. What the official document didn’t say was the one whole day of pre-labour I had gone through before that 5 hours 44 minutes, the last 9+ hours of which were already painful enough for me to head to hospital believing that labour already started. By the time I realized that¬†gas would not be sufficient and it was getting way too much, I was told it’s too late to use any other drugs because the baby was coming. So I had to push it through, literally. Nothing, I mean really¬†nothing,¬†had prepared me for THAT level of pain and I think my mind had to detach from my body to remain somehow half-conscious, and Nicolas said that he never realized I had so much force that his arms were almost twisted broken by me, lol (he was such a fabulous supporter during whole process, merci palomito). It was an outer-body experience, to say the least.

Enough rambling, back to the serious staff ūüôā So by day 1, Nicolas and I started with the OPOL – one parent one language –¬†approach. In this approach, each parent speaks respective language with the child, under all circumstances, so that the child gets enough exposure to all languages in the most natural way. I read that young children will have this natural ability to distinguish the languages and acknowledge the fact that mum and dad are each speaking a different language to them, and in return would establish a language-per-parent communication system. They would have no problem switching between/among languages depending on the audience.

My delivery doctor Dr. Seeho (who’s btw a fantastic doctor, I couldn’t ask for more) and quite a few midwives at the Mater (hospital where Nina was born) are¬†interested in – positively – the fact that we speak different languages to Nina. This allows us to be confident and comfortable in speaking ‘minority’ languages (Chinese/French vs English as mainstream language in Australia) with Nina¬†even when there are other English-speaking person present. This takes off one of the most common pressures that many bi/tri-lingual parents face – feeling awkward/misunderstood/un-acknolweged/rude/embarrassed in using a minority language in a social environment, as suggested by researches. It takes some determination, confidence, persistence, and sometimes a¬†bit of luck¬†to overcome this challenge.

I’m grateful that we are in a supportive environment to start with. Way to go.

A Few Books on Bi/multi-lingualism

These are a few books I’ve read/found so far. Will continue to update the list as and when I found more. Some are directly linked to bi/multi-lingual subject, some are indrectly so.

The list below is in no particular order.

A Parents’ and Teachers’ Guide to Bilingualism. by Colin Baker.

This book is easy to read and can be used as some sort of practical guide book, as it’s structed in a Question and Answer format. All questions (there are hundreds of them!) are categorized into 6 groups:

A: Family questions (such as: ‘My childern can speak town languages. How can I help them to belong to two cultures?’)

B: Language Development questions (such as: Will my child become equally fluent in two languages?’, or ‘Will learning a second language interfere with development in the first language?’ or even more relevant to me ‘Is it sensible to raise my child in three languages?’)

C: Questions about problems (such as ‘Will bilingualism have any adverse effect on my child’s friendships and social development’, or ‘My child mixes the two languages. What should I do?’)

D: Reading and Writing questions (such as ‘Should my child learn to read in one language first?’, or ‘How should I help my child to read and write in both languages?’)

E: Education questions (such as ‘Should my child go to a bilingual school?’)

F: Concluding questions (such as ‘Are monolinguals more common than bilinguals in the world?’)

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7 Steps to Raising a Bilingual Child. by Maomi Steiner, M.D., with Susan L. Hayes

This is a ‘dummy for’ type of book. The author claims there are just 7 steps to follow, although I personally would rather take some useful tips out of all these steps, instead of necessarily actually following the steps. And also, this is a very US-centred book with lots of reference and discussion that is US only, so at times I feel slightly left out.

Anyway, the 7 steps are:

Step 1: building the foundation for your child’s bilingualism

Step 2: making it happen: defining your goals

Step 3: becoming a bilingual coach

Step 4: creating your bilingual action plan

Step 5: leaping over predictable obstacles

Step 6: the ‘Two Rs’: Reading and Writing in two languages

Step 7: adapting to school: the bilingual child goes to school

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Le Defi des Enfants Bilingues – Grandir et vivre en parlant plusieurs langues. by Barbara Abdelilah-Bauer.

This is one of the first books that I read on the subject. There is a good balance of academic discussion (such as simultaneous bilingualism and consecutive bilingualism) and many case studies. The only downside is that this book is in French only, as far as I’m aware of, so you will have to be able to read in French to start with … The index of the book shows:

1. Les mecanismes du langage

2. devenir bilingue

3. de la naissance a 3 ans, le bilinguisme precoce simultane

4. le bilinguisme precoce consecutif, de 3 a 6 ans

5. le bilinguisme tardif

6. de la difficulte d’etre bilingue

7. l’education d’un enfant bilingue au quotidien

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Bilingual – Life and Reality. by Francois Grosjean

I haven’t actually read the book yet, so will reserve my comments to a later time.

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How Language Works. by David Crystal

This book is not necessarily a book on bilingualism, but as a general tour through the world of language. On its cover it says¬†‘It ranges over everything from how children learn to read to what makes words rude or polite, from eyebrow flashes to whistling languages. Unlocking the secrets of communication in an accessible, entertaining way, this exhilarating book sheds light on the endless mysteries of the language we speak, write and read every day.¬†‘

So it’s an interesting read on languages itself.

It¬†does have a chapter on¬†‘Multilingualism’ that¬†discusses how multilingualism works and how we cope with many languages. It also makes you reflect¬†on how any human being – not just a child but as an adult – cope with more than one languages, as we¬†do often these days.

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to be continued …

A piece of reading …

As i was browsing through SMH (Sydney Morning Herald) this morning, this article caught my eyes … This is basically along the same line as stated in a book that I bought for Nicolas’ last birthday ‘Becoming Us – the Essential Relationship Guide for Parents’.

I cannot help but wondering, so why are people (including me!!) making babies if they often make us less happy?¬†And why is every parent telling me that¬†it’s¬†all worth it?¬†

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From http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/life/and-baby-makes-8230-trouble-20111216-1oyrw.html

And baby makes … trouble 

"The secret to parental happiness lies in the spirit of generosity towards one's partner."
The secret to parental happiness lies in the spirit of generosity towards one’s partner.

MOST couples assume having children will make them happier. But time and again researchers find parents are no happier than childless couples. More often children seem to bring unhappiness.

Whether measuring life satisfaction, marital satisfaction, mental health or happiness levels, parents often rate worse than non-parents. New research shows it does not have to be that way. The secret to parental happiness lies in a spirit of generosity towards one’s partner, according to a study from the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, called When Baby Makes Three.

How often partners express affection for each other, their willingness to forgive each other’s faults, the small acts of service, such as making a cup of tea or giving a back rub, appear crucial in sustaining a couple through the shoals of parenthood.

Based on a representative sample of 1400 married couples, the latest research again found parenthood was typically associated with lower levels of marital happiness. But a significant minority of the couples – 35 per cent – were bucking the odds. What was their secret?

Husbands and wives both ”benefit when they embrace an ethic of marital generosity that puts the welfare of their spouse first,” write the researchers Elizabeth Marquardt and W. Bradford Wilcox in the Atlantic magazine. Those couples that scored highest on the generosity scale and made a regular effort to serve their spouse in small ways were more likely to report being “very happy”.

Other elements, such as good sex, shared housework and religious faith and commitment, also seemed to boost chances of successfully combining marriage and parenting, according to the report. But making the effort to be affectionate and generous to each other was a crucial ingredient.

Eric Hudson, vice-president of the Australian Association of Relationship Counsellors and a counsellor for 25 years, said the birth of the first child often brought a massive change in a couple’s relationship and lifestyle and sometimes less satisfaction. “Couples might not be having as much sex and the attention is focused on the child and then the children,” he said.

“Parents living busy lives can overlook the importance of kindness to each other.”

He said women were still expected to play the role in the marriage of the giving, generous one. And men often felt constrained about showing their softer and loving natures.

“The bunch of flowers sounds cliched but it’s really powerful.”

Robert Cummins, professor of psychology at Deakin University, said money and social support affected couples’ happiness.

Ten years of tracking wellbeing through the Australian Unity Wellbeing Index showed that, whether or not they had children, the happiest couples were secure financially and felt emotionally supported by their partners and a wider network of friends and family.

“What’s tragic is the low wellbeing of many sole parents,” he said. “They rate well below the normal range and that’s very much tied to low income. As soon as income is up to $60,000, their wellbeing is the same as other parents.”

Is happiness the right word to describe what children bring to their parents? The American researchers found married parents, especially women, were more likely to report that their “life had an important purpose” compared to peers who did not have children.

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