My kids are constantly in competition, even squabbling over such silly things as who got out of bed first in the morning or who can eat the most pancakes for breakfast. So it was no surprise that when Lulu found out about my interview with Roy (see “It’s a Little Bit Funky”: I Interview My Son on Being Bilingual), she demanded to be interviewed, too. (As I was planning to do it, anyway, she saved me the trouble of having to persuade her. )
Lulu is 8, turning 9 in June, and our conversation, like the conversation I had with Roy, revealed her feelings toward being bilingual—and all that comes with it. For the most part, she seems happy to have two languages, but she also struggles a bit with the burden of additional homework in the minority language and has mixed emotions about being singled out for her English ability.
Here are excepts from our conversation…
Lulu, what do you think about being bilingual?
Because I have two languages, I can help people.
How can you help people?
I can teach people English so they have two languages, too! [Her response was partly prompted, I think, by the experience I describe in A Powerful Way to Inspire a Positive Attitude in Your Bilingual Child.]
Are there other good things about being bilingual?
I might make more friends because people are interested in me.
Is there anything bad about it?
I have a lot of homework.
How do you feel about doing English homework every day?
It’s a little hard because I have to do English homework and Japanese homework and I get tired. And if I don’t do my best, you get angry sometimes. [Note: It’s true, I’ve lost my temper a few times when she does less than her best. I try to be patient, and sensitive to her situation, but I still expect my kids to do their best, whatever the task.]
What do you think about books and reading?
I don’t really like reading that much. I like to write more. [Note: Lulu has become a capable reader, but motivating her to read more, in both languages, is an ongoing challenge. By nature, she’s a very active child.]
Because sometimes I don’t know what it says [when I’m reading]. When I’m writing, I don’t have to write hard words, so it’s easier.
What’s your favorite book?
Harry Potter, because they get in trouble, like me, and they use magic. I like magic.
Do you like the stories I put on the door in the bathroom?
I want exciting stories, with chapters, like “Super Poop.” I liked it when they were fighting in the toilet and searching for treasure on the mountain. [Note: “Super Poop” was a long, zany “serial story” that I wrote for my kids. For more on this idea, see Turn Your Kids into Eager Readers with This Fun, Simple Strategy.]
Which one of your languages is stronger, English or Japanese?
English, because sometimes I don’t know the meaning of Japanese words. English spelling is hard, though.
How do you feel about speaking English outside the house?
People kind of stare and I don’t like it. I feel shy because everyone’s looking at me.
What are they thinking, though?
They’re thinking, “Wow,” because they can’t speak English and I’m still a little kid.
Do you ever use English at school?
The teacher asked me to sing a song in English and everyone was watching me.
How did that make you feel?
I liked doing it, but I felt a little shy.
Have you used English at school any other times?
Sometimes I read an English book to my friends.
How do they react?
They go, “Wow.”
What do you think when you hear me speak Japanese?
(Laughing) You have to practice more! And Mommy’s the same, too. You guys have to practice more!
Lulu, what would you like to be in the future?
Right now, a dancer. But maybe when I’m a grown-up, it might change.
If you became a dancer, how would being bilingual help you?
I could go around the world because I speak English and Japanese.