Thursday, June 23, 2011

Me on Parentables: Bilingual Kids Will Make You Feel Stupid

Check out my new thing on TLC Parentables.  It's about how my kids are making me feel like an idiot.

Starts like this here...

There is no shortage of evidence that raising kids to be bilingual is beneficial in terms of their future language and problem-solving abilities.  And if, like my kids, the children have extended family members who speak a language other than that of the country in which they are being raised, being bilingual is almost a necessity.

My wife emigrated from Vietnam with her family as a toddler.  And although her English is not bad (okay, it’s flawless, but I like to pretend I can’t understand what she’s saying sometimes, just to mess with her), she has never spoken anything but Vietnamese to her parents, grandfather, and scores of aunts, uncles, cousins, and other relatives of ambiguous kinship that seem to endlessly drift through her parents' kitchen.  So when we visit her family on the East Coast, or when they visit us here in California, very little English is spoken.

When I first started spending a lot of time with her family, shortly before we were to be married (10 years ago today!), this used to frustrate me a bit.  I always wanted to know what was being said, and would pester my wife or her siblings for simultaneous translations.  After getting the same response to my requests a couple dozen times, I finally got the message: banal family chatter was not worth the trouble of translating.  If I needed to know something, someone would speak English, or recruit a translator from among the younger family members.  I learned that during big family get-togethers, although it would be considered rude for me to go read a book, it was perfectly acceptable for me to gaze into the middle-distance with a beatific smile, daydreaming about snow-capped mountains or pie.


I also wrote a couple shorter pieces on Parentables that you might enjoy, as long as you're trying to kill time at work

And once more thing.  I just want to make sure that everyone reads the guest post that MY VERY OWN DAD wrote for Father's Day, wherein he shares stories of my grandpa, who could have kicked Chuck Norris's  ass while roping a steer.  It's pretty much the coolest thing anyone has ever written on this blog, and I'll probably keep pimping it until I'm sure everyone in the world has read it. 


  1. I read your post and I must say, why hasn't your inlaws learned more English? I remember growing up the Japanese families whose children were fully bilingual.. The parents, etc. weren't. It made me feel that they did not want to blend w/the American culture.. My grandfather came here at the age of 14 not learning one word of English.. He learned English, graduated first in his class at Notre Dame.. He believed that if u live in any country you have to learn to assimilate the language as well as the culture.. Believe me he still kept his Korean culture but gained so much from learning English.. btw, his southern cooking was the best... Thank God, he came thru Georgia...
    As far as you being considered 'rude' for reading a book during these get togethers, I don't blame you.. after all, (no offense) I think it may of been rude for your in- laws to leave u out of the convo... I agree w/my grandfather 100%.. Heck my husband said the French had no sympathy to tourists who did not at least try to speak French when they toured France... Viva la France... I so agree..

  2. Wouldn't be nice, if we adults had those squishy new brains that learn so effortlessly?? On the other hand, they still have to go through puberty, so the joke's on them!

  3. My son is going to be 2 as well and his dad is French. So, I speak English to him and his dad speaks French. The result is that he will ask me for something in English, and if I say no..he asks me in French, as if, MAYBE i didn't understand what he wanted! It's hilarious!

    (French is a little easier than Vietnamese. I'd be lost...)

  4. Happy 10th Anniversary, Man! My kids are learning spanish via Dora. Sigh.

    Why American men should boycott American women

    I am an American man, and I have decided to boycott American women. In a nutshell, American women are the most likely to cheat on you, to divorce you, to get fat, to steal half of your money in the divorce courts, don’t know how to cook or clean, don’t want to have children, etc. Therefore, what intelligent man would want to get involved with American women?

    American women are generally immature, selfish, extremely arrogant and self-centered, mentally unstable, irresponsible, and highly unchaste. The behavior of most American women is utterly disgusting, to say the least.

    This blog is my attempt to explain why I feel American women are inferior to foreign women (non-American women), and why American men should boycott American women, and date/marry only foreign (non-American) women.


  6. Wow. Anonymous. Classic troll, huh?

    Anyway, two friends of ours are a Hong-Kong Chines/Korean couple. Their kids are being raised in a frequently confusing tri-lingual environment. But they seem to coping.

  7. @KBF--they all know English to varying degrees, but when it's all family around, they never speak it. Some of the older folks came over when they were in their 50s and 60s, so they didn't learn as much. I guess, because there's a big VN community where they live, and a lot of family nearby, they didn't feel the need to assimilate all that much.

    @Trucking--At least I wish I would have taken better advantage of my squishy brain.

    @Jeanne--It's very cute to watch them trying to figure out which language is appropriate for which situations.

    @Dadwhowrites--Yeah, that guy is a real gem. I'm sure the kids will do fine--it's me I'm worried about.

  8. American women are totally out of control!
    I have a feeling that in America the white American women have been reduced to being a component of the overall economy.
    As goes the economy, so goes the American women....


Don't hold back.


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