Today’s post comes from Laura Caputo-Wickham author of “A Fish in Foreign Waters“.
As many other parents out there, my interest for bilingualism started with the birth of my first child. I followed her speech progress with enthusiasm and I was delighted every time my little one would say a word in the minority language.
I still remember how chuffed it made me feel; “it’s simple really” I would tell my friends “I just speak Italian to her the whole time and she just gets it”. But one thing that children are particularly good at, is proving you wrong whenever you feel that you’re doing something right. And that was certainly the case when my three year old decided to stop speaking the minority language altogether.
I tried everything I could: pretending not to understand, pleading, some good old bribing, but that lead to nothing. While looking for help in books, I came across a very interesting quote from Professor Colin Baker, who writes in his book, A Parent’s and Teachers’ Guide to Bilingualism (Multilingual Matters, Third Edition): “Children often don’t want to appear different. They want to conform to the status-giving behavior of the peer group. This may entail a temporary non-use of one of their languages.”
It finally made sense: children don’t like to be different! I started looking back at my life, growing up bilingual in Rome. I remembered how my friends would tease me for the way I pronounced different words; the curious looks over my peanut butter sandwiches (that my mum would get sent over by her American friends, as it didn’t exist in Italian supermarkets back then). I realised that as a child, I saw bilingualism as a burden rather than an amazing privilege. And this was probably how my daughter saw it too.
This consideration made me feel really sad. How many frustrations and wasted opportunities could be avoided if children actually understood that speaking more than one language is good for them!
So this was the inspiration for my book: “A Fish in Foreign Waters” which tells the story of Rosie Ray, a fish whose world gets thrown upside down when she has to move to a different bay. She will have to learn a new language, make new friends and face some of the challenges that bilingual children often face. But on the day of her birthday she will make an exciting discovery that will help her see how much she has actually gained from being able to speak two languages.
My book wants to be a tool that parents and teacher can use in order to have a good conversation with their children and explain to them the benefits of being bilingual. It gives children a sweet character they can relate to, and a story that will help them understand that yes, they are different, but in a cool sort of way!
About the author:
Laura Caputo-Wickham was born in Rome where she graduated in Languages and Foreign Cultures. She then moved to the U.K. where she taught Italian for many years. Laura was raised bilingual, so was her mum and so are her two daughters. Her own experience inspired her to write “A Fish in Foreign Waters”.
Disclosure: No cash payment was receive for guest posting this article. Laura send us a copy of the book and the girls truly enjoy it. However please note that the post contains affiliate amazon links.