Overseas Filipinos: Should We Raise Our Kids As Bilingual Speakers?

It is naturally a common practice that Filipino expats or immigrants choose to rear their children in the language used in the foreign country they are based.  Like many others, English is our first choice since we live in a country where this is an official and commonly spoken language.  Furthermore, it is a familiarly spoken language in the Philippines and a form of status symbol (deny it or not it is in Philippine context).  Hence it is never a difficult decision for us and many. Even then, I personally value the Filipino language and wish that my daughter would be able to speak it fluently as she grows up.  It is our native tongue and it represents our cultural heritage.  Come to think of it, how come Chinese, Mexican and Indian families whose children were born or raised in a foreign country are able to speak their native tongues? Isn’t it probably because they value their ethnic identities?

Having lived in Singapore for two years and living amidst other cultures outside of the Singaporean blend that is already present, I have learned from other parents that raising children in bilingual atmosphere is quite possible.

Although we speak to her in English, my wife and I speak to each other in the vernacular.  We instructed her nanny to speak to her in English but did not force her as we figured her nose will bleed trying to do so 🙂 .  And finally we have subscribed to The Filipino Channel (TFC).  As such, Yanna was quick to pick Filipino words.   We would hear her say words like “Ayaw” (verb for not liking) or “akin na” (Give it to me) out of an outburst.  But could also switch to the English equivalent when we speak to her in English.  One time in a party, the host said in Filipino “ang init” referring to the weather and she was quick to interpret in English “It’s hot”.  Now that she is attending a playgroup school, her English was enhanced.  So perhaps slowly, we will eventually be able to teach her Filipino.

I guess it’s about time we open our minds and consider, depending on the child’s ability, bilingualism.

About pinoyleonardo

Pinoy Leonardo (blogname) is an expat in Singapore living with his wife and three year old daughter. He shares his views, experiences and other helpful advices on parenting, living in Singapore and personal development.