This week marks our 5th month here in the Philippines. Our journey of language and cultural immersion started last December when me and my two children (ages 3 and 5) left the beautiful Orange County, California in our quest for Trilingualism (English, Filipino and Mandarin). It’s a sacrifice that me and and my husband decided to do because we believe that immersion is the only way for them to learn the target languages.
A week after we arrived in Manila, the children started a local Montessori school where the mode of instruction is done in English and Filipino. They adjusted rather quickly and few weeks later they are excited to go to school and meet new friends. Having spent a vacation for a month last year prior to our moving must have given them the confidence and sense of familiarity for the new place. To make their language acquisition faster, we tapped into available resources like hiring live in Filipino nannies, setting up playdates and making sure everyone speaks Filipino at home. When my husband came to visit last month, he was pleasantly surprised how they were able to pick up the languages so easily. Using the OPOL (one parent one language) method, kids where able to switch languages without difficulty. Now, my 5 year old is reading in Filipino and the 3 year old just started reading three letter words in both languages, too.
Mandarin on the other hand proved to be a challenge being the third language introduced. But we are fortunate to find a Chinese native speaker to come in twice a week and we later added one on one classoom tutorial on Saturdays. Nowadays, the children are able to understand basic Mandarin conversations, write simple Chinese characters and read pin-yin as well. They love to count in Mandarin, sing, and they think its their special language together. Our goal is to sustain this with summer immersion in China or Taiwan next year.
Looking back, we are happy that we made this major decision to temporarilly raise our children here. Their ability to absorb languages easily and develop near-native accents in Filipino and Mandarin is simply amazing. We had our struggle too — like being away from their Dad for couple of months, adjusting to the heat and a different way of life, but in the end the benefits outweigh everything. When I hear them having conversations in Filipino or when my 5 year old told me that the Chinese lady is talking to her son in Mandarin and translated what was said, I can’t help but feel a deep sense of pride and joy knowing that my children will grow up cognizant of other languages and cultures. Raising them to be global citizens is one gift we can contribute that hopefully one day, they will be thankful for. 🙂
Holy week is considered a major holiday in the Philippines. Most businesses declare half day starting Wednesday to observe the Lenten Season. Malls are closed for 2 days starting Holy Thursday and open on Saturday afternoon. Yes, its like Memorial weekend to the nth degree. When I told Mike that malls are closed he starts to panic and rushed to SM (the superstore) to get loads of groceries and cash. I told him that no one stacks up on food here during holy week, or when there’s typhoon, or even flood. It’s like telling the cab driver to put on his seatbelt. He gave me a weird look 🙂
As part of the catholic tradition, Filipinos spent the Holy week reading the “pasyon.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pasyon or doing the “Visita Iglesia”, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_Churches_Visitation . It’s been a long time since I participated in this practice, having lived in the US for 14 years.
Tomorrow is Good Friday and who knows, i might be able to do the Visita Iglesia. Right now, I have no desire to go outside — it is HOT!
Time flies faster than I anticipated. The 3 months that we’ve been in Manila were a blur. All i know is that we arrived in December 28 and the kids started the local Montessori school called TI Montessori of Meadowood (Bacoor, Cavite) the first week of January. I still remember the kids getting excited because they are going to wear a school uniform and ride a school bus, all for the first time. At that time, we were living with my sister because our house was still under renovation. So while the kids are in school, I was busy with the house. That’s probably why time went faster than I thought 🙂
We moved to our newly renovated house around 1st week of March. We are excited to finally have our routine (and thankful we did not completely destroy my sister’s house) and getting situated at last. At this time, kids have adjusted in school and have made many friends and are starting to speak Filipino. Thanks to daily skype, we were able to speak to my husband almost 24/7 (he is always online by the nature of his job).
On March 22, Mike decided to visit us. He was terribly missing the kids and not feeling good himself to the point of having bad anxiety just being apart from us. I asked him if maybe he can work here instead. It is God’s blessing that his boss has no problems of him working overseas. He booked the next plane out 🙂
We’ve been living in sunny California (Laguna Niguel, Orange county) since May 2007. We have a 5 year old boy and 3 year old girl. Ethan was born in St. Petersburg, Florida and Kaya (we also call her Aya), in Mission Viejo, California. My husband and I met and got married in New York City and we’ve been moving around the United States when most of our friends and family are still in the east coast. He works in the IT world and I am a nurse. Travelling is something we like to do and we are happy to have the opportunity to do so. Some well meaning friends will say that we are depriving the kids of stability, but we believe that travel is an education in itself, and kids can adapt easily given the right environment. All they need is a stable home with parents that care about their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being.
In December, my husband and I decided that the kids and I go back to the Philippines for 6 months vacation while he was transitioning to his new job. I resigned from my job at Mission hospital and bought 3 tickets home. Everyone thinks I’m crazy with the recession in the US and all. But for the first time, I felt good. There is no certainty in life, people lose jobs regardless its recession or not. You may call it burned out or mid-life crisis, but i was so ready to leave the OC and start a new life in the Philippines.
One of my biggest regrets in life is my inability to teach my children my mother’s tongue which is Filipino. I have tried the OPOL but was not successful enough to produce tri or bilingual children. But its never too late to fix it as they are still in that ideal age to learn the language like a native. Thus, this blog to chronicle our journey to multilingualism.