Yes, it’s been 8 months since my last blog. Got so busy with constant changes, the highs and lows of our daily existence 🙂 My husband joined us in July and has been living there indefinitely. The OPOL method we use at home is off balance right now as I’m finding lots of obstacles along the way.
Interestingly, our language immersion has brought 2 different results for both kids having lived in the country for 15 months. My 6 year old is now bilingual and has an easy transition with the language. My 4 year old however, understands the language but has a difficult time speaking the language. I’m starting to think about nature vs. nurture. The fact that the present environment has hindered her language acquisition, I also wonder if she is not wired to learn a second language given the fact that both are exposed to the same environment. Hmm… need to do more research on this.
When we moved to Alabang, a more upscale area of the Philippines, it came with a price. All the neighborhood kids as well as their classmates in the new school speak ONLY English. I was really surprised when one day, my son came home from school and told me that he’s the only American in his class that can speak Filipino and only few Filipino kids understand but don’t speak the language. I was dumbfounded, so I went to school the next day and I was surprised when i heard all the kids chattering in English. I thought I was back in the States … and this is not an international school! My son introduced me to his new friend, so I spoke Filipino to the boy asking him if he can tell his mom if it’s okay to set up a play date this weekend. The 6 year old gave me a puzzled look and I realized he has no clue what I’m talking about 🙂
Honestly, the experience really brought me sadness. We went home to immerse our children in language and culture yet his environment failed them. Soon after, the nannies speak English, their cousins, the neighborhood friends, their aunts and uncles, almost everyone. I am the only one who tried hard to speak and teach them how to read and write in Filipino. I’m puzzled because the adults communicate in Filipino with each other but address the children in English. I don’t know why. I am constantly reminding them that the kids understand Filipino. I wish I can send them to a local public school but that’s out of the question. With my “American” husband being home, I feel like a minority in MY house, in MY country. It is so frustrating! One day, he sensed my disappointment and pointed the fact that although we have struggles with the language, they are also exposed to the local culture and experience. That’s true! Now they know how important strong family ties are, how lucky they are to be able to go to school and how blessed they are to live in a clean and safe environment. Everyday, when they leave the gated subdivision, they are reminded of poverty and the plight of street children and other social ills. It is my hope that one day, those experiences will help them become compassionate and productive citizens.
Lately, my son is picking up the language faster from adult conversations and is now reading and writing in Filipino. He is also doing well in Mandarin classes. My daughter on the other hand is slowly starting to speak basic Filipino words and short sentences. Her reading (English) has improved dramatically this month. So I’m thinking of enrolling her and her brother to a Filipino summer class this April to start reading and writing in Filipino.
Since October, I am back in the States due to work and visa related problems but go home every 3 months to visit for a month. Few weeks ago, I submitted an open enrollment application to a local magnet school that offers a Mandarin immersion program. Tomorrow, i will find out the result of the lottery. My daughter is incoming kindergarten and my son is going to 2nd grade. I already met with the first grade teacher who gave me the information about the curriculum for my son to learn this summer for testing in August. I hope (and pray) both will be accepted in the program. Fingers crossed 🙂