News / The Diaspora

Bringing up bilingual children: The best ways of passing on cultural identity

By SIMONETTA WENKERT,  The Independent   JUNE 3, 2015

bilinguals-sandison-2

Mimi Eskinder and Mary Mulugeta  David Sandison

According to a 2014 survey by the Department for Education, there are more than a million UK children today who speak a language other than English in the home. The challenge for their parents is finding ways to pass on a cultural identity while giving their children the freedom to discover their own. Some hire tutors or send their children to evening classes, while others decide to speak English from the start.

Mimi Eskinder, an Ethiopian who came to this country in 1981, says she regrets not teaching her daughters Amharic. “The big difference is that I came here as a refugee, but my children, who were born here, didn’t need any extra help with fitting in.”

Her daughter, Mary, aged 18 and studying for A Levels, initially resisted learning Amharic from her two grandmothers, and refused to go to language classes because she was embarrassed about her accent: “I’m not the world’s greatest linguist, and whenever I tried to string a sentence together in Amharic, it sounded terrible.”

For Mary, the issue was further complicated by wanting to fit into a tough inner-city girl-culture: “Until I went to Ethiopia on my own, at the age of 14, I would see people wearing our traditional Ethiopian clothes and be embarrassed that they looked like “freshies” or members of a cult. When I was out with my friends, I acted all ‘gangsta’, making loads of noise, which is completely opposite to the Ethiopian way of being respectful and talking quietly.”

Read the entire story on The Independent

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Copyright © 2015 The Independent. All rights reserved

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