Speaking a language that is not the mainstream language with your child is difficult. Speaking that language with your child when there are only mainstream-language-speakers around is even more difficult.
Today Nina and I went to a local cafe for our afternoon tea. It was about 4pm, which is exactly the time when school finishes and some parents bring their children to the cafe for their afternoon tea too.
There were this mother and two school-age children sitting next to our table. The mother was extremely nice to Nina and started to have small ‘chat’ with Nina, in English obviously. Then inevitably I would try to prompt Nina to say hello (by waving hands) or say thank you (when the lady helped to pick up her hat) – in Chinese. It’s the moments like this that I felt a bit awkward. What I was saying to NIna apparently was something that socially I wanted the lady to understand as well (that I am educating my daughter to be polite and social), however by choosing to speak Chinese with Nina (by sticking to OPOL – One Parent One Language) the lady was not going to understand anything I said. I just hoped that she would somehow deduct what I was trying to say.
But What if she didn’t? Would she think that I was rude to her? Would she expect me to switch to English (she knew that I speak English, as when I was only talking to her I used English)? Would she think I am simply bizarre?
Situations like this are tough. It’s a test to how strongly I believe in OPOL, and how strongly I feel about my mother tongue, and how strongly I believe in myself ultimately. There have been many occassions when I felt so attempted to switch to English, and there have been a few occassions when I did. Life is so much easier when you don’t have to make conscious efforts and prove yourselt constantly.
But most of time, I resisted the temptation, and carried on with Chinese with Nina. I reckon if I cannot resist the temptation, how can I ever expect Nina to resist the tempatation one day? After all, she will pick up the cues from me and likely follow my example, good or bad. She will certainly have tough moments and doubts, and hopefully we’ll go through moments like that together, being a team of proud daughter and mother.