Malta is a bilingual country. The national languages are both Maltese and English. And despite it being a very small country, there is somewhat of a divide - the people who primarily speak Maltese and the people who primarily speak English. This is often down to schools attended. Some teach in English, others in Maltese. If I'm honest, it is slightly confusing and messy, but that's the way it is. Most people are perfectly fluent in both. Personally, while I adore languages, I'm not very good at them and having been brought up speaking English, my Maltese has suffered slightly along the way (though ironically it seems to have improved since I left Malta).
David on the other hand is perfectly fluent in both, as well as in Italian. He can also communicate well in French and Spanish to an extent. He is one of those lucky people who is amazing at languages. My mother is similar (imagine her disdain when I turned up!!).
Enter Emily, who was born in the UK. She is still Maltese (although we intend to get her to dual-citizenship status at some point) but has very limited exposure to the language. We know that the best way to raise a child to be bilingual is for each parent to speak a different language to the child. However this works easiest when the parents are actually from different countries. With David and myself it feels unnatural as we speak to each other in English (with the odd Maltese word thrown in... it's a Maltese thing!). So what to do?
I could be wrong, but I have a funny feeling Emily takes after David in this respect rather than me. Her understanding of most of what I tell her is already very clear. She has known what "milk" means since she was about 5 months old. She also knows what "sleep", "nappy" and "bath" mean. We communicate well: I say the word (within a sentence) when I think it's time for whichever and she will smile or snuggle if she wants to sleep, for example. If she is not interested, then there is no reaction. It's a system that works well.
Seeing as how David was raised in Italy and England as well as in Malta, his parents spoke to him in Maltese to ensure that he never loses his Maltese. We thought it would be fitting for them to continue this with Emily. It's not the same of course but there'd be visits and Skype, and later on, phone calls and overall we thought it might give her more of a reason to want to learn the language. Sadly, it would appear that they'd prefer not to. It seems a pity, but it is ultimately their choice. We will teach her some basic vocabulary and she will have special story books in Maltese, and perhaps when she's older she'll make the choice to pursue it further.
Ultimately I feel it is important to give her at least a basic understanding of part of her heritage. And that much, I will strive to do.
This blog is now closed. The story continues over on Flip Flops and Flying Carpets.
Thank you for reading.
Thank you for reading.