Submitted by Kristina Hall
You have most likely heard that a child can pick up a new language without much effort, but do you know why? If a second language is added to the first language at an early age, the two languages are stored in the same part of the brain. Because a child’s language center is in one place in the brain, it is easy for a child to pick up a third and even fourth language.
A young child's brain will think of several languages as one and won't evoke an accent. For that reason, a child often cannot directly translate languages until later in life. If you learn a second language when you are older, you will always have an accent. It can be slight, but it’s there nonetheless, even with grammatically correct speech. This is because your two languages are stored in two different places in the adult brain. You might believe you are thinking in the language you are speaking if you are fluent, but the brain is fooling you. If the languages are learned years apart, the brain will always translate between the languages. It just goes so fast with practice that you do not notice.
The real gift of speaking your first language to your child has to do with something much greater than just giving them a language. The real gift is that you are giving yourself.
You might be fluent in another language and speak it daily, but that language is not connected to your emotions. Your emotional language is your first language. When you speak your mother tongue, you are one with your inner self. If your words and emotions correlate, your child will get to know the real you.
If you say “I love you” in your second language, your spoken words come from your brain. When you say “I love you” in your native tongue, the words come from your heart. You can feel the meaning of the words, as can your child. You express yourself differently in a second language, almost as if you are another person. It is difficult to truly feel what you are saying in a second language.
If you normally speak with a quick wit, you might not come across as funny in a second language. Your humor, happiness, sadness and all of your emotions flow with your heart when you express yourself in your mother tongue. Your child will hear the right tone of voice, not just the right words, with your native tongue. The fine nuances are present in your communication. He will see and feel all the emotional layers that are you, and that can deepen your relationship with your child. You are also more authentic when you speak your native language, and your child will sense a strong belief in your own identity.
To feel truly whole as a person it is important not to let go of your first language. It is who you are. If you choose not to speak your mother tongue, you have chosen to take away a big part of yourself. Let your child get to know you, the whole you.