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You Are Not Alone

September 20, 2013

You Are Not Alone

I have a simple message today: You are not alone.

I know it can feel that way at times, especially if you’re the main source of exposure to the minority language in your child’s life. And I know that when you feel alone, the bilingual journey—which is hard in any case—just becomes that much harder. There may even be times at the end of another long, lonely, exhausting day when you lie there in bed and wonder: Can I really do this?

It’s true, of course, that the circumstances you face can be very challenging. But what makes it all so much tougher is feeling alone with your doubts and frustrations. Ultimately, it isn’t the circumstances themselves that can derail your dream, it’s the doubt and frustration. The truth is, you are bigger than any circumstances you’ll ever face, but rising doubt and frustration can grow overwhelming—and that’s especially the case when you feel alone.

But hear me: You are not alone.

There are millions of parents who have made this journey before you, and millions more making the journey alongside you at this very moment. And one of those parents is an odd little father in a small, cluttered house in Hiroshima, Japan who’s cheering for you right now.

It’s true: I’m cheering for you. I feel for your doubts and frustrations, but I know you can do this. I know you can keep going, keep trying, for another day, and then another.

Will your efforts enable your child to reach the destination of your original dream? Like the rest of life, there are no guarantees. But I can promise you that if you don’t keep going, keep trying, the outcome is certain: you won’t get far at all. As long as you take another step each new day, you’ll go a long way over the years ahead. And, finally, your child will be in a good place to continue the journey from there.

In the meantime, promise me this: If you ever feel so alone, and so overwhelmed by doubt and frustration that you’re in danger of abandoning the whole journey—though in your heart this is still truly important to you—then reach out to me right away.

Really. I mean it.

adam@bilingualmonkeys.com

And I will tell you: You are not alone.

And I will tell you: I believe in you. You can do this. Keep going, keep trying, day by day, and keep breathing in as much joy on this memorable journey as your heart can possibly hold.

P.S. You can also find kinship and support at the forum for this community, The Bilingual Zoo. Admission is free for all!

1 Olga @The EuropeanMama September 23, 2013 at 4:12 am

This post, I really needed it! And just to tell you—you are not alone, either! I never met you in person, but your blog has been such a great resource and support—let me know how I can help!

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2 Adam September 23, 2013 at 8:14 pm

Olga, thank you! This blog has really helped me, too—I once felt far more isolated. I look forward to meeting you and your family in person one day!

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3 Elena September 23, 2013 at 4:26 am

Oh, thanks so much! You’re right, happiness is a journey, not a destination. And it takes wisdom to remember to be happy every day despite difficulties on the way.

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4 Adam September 23, 2013 at 8:18 pm

Elena, here’s one of my favorite quotes, from Ursula LeGuin:

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”

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5 Olena September 23, 2013 at 11:25 pm

Great post, Adam!

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6 Naveed September 24, 2013 at 5:03 am

Thank you for this post, it’s nice to know I’m not alone! I have been trying really hard to encourage my (nearly) 2 and a half year old to speak in her minority language. Yesterday she told me she didn’t want to speak the language as other children didn’t! I didn’t really know what to say because what she said is true, none of the other children she sees speak in her minority language. I felt so frustrated but am still determined to continue!

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7 Adam September 24, 2013 at 1:58 pm

Naveed, we naturally have to be sensitive to our children’s feelings, but that doesn’t mean we should permit those feelings to override the greater goal we have for their bilingual development. This goal, for me, is non-negotiable, so when my kids express resistance, I simply do my best to address the current resistance within the context of the larger journey.

So, yes, stay determined. Don’t let your daughter’s temporary feelings shake your long-term commitment. At the same time, it’s important that you do address them in some way, particularly by helping her to grasp the value of her minority language. She’s still just 2, of course, but you may find some ideas and inspiration in these two posts: Getting a Bilingual Child to Feel the Value of the Minority Language and A Powerful Way to Inspire a Positive Attitude in Your Bilingual Child.

Keep at it, Naveed! And keep us posted on your progress!

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8 Hanna November 8, 2013 at 3:41 am

Naveed, I think many children go through that stage when they don’t want to “speak the language as other children didn’t”. I had the same situation. I just told my son, “I’ll speak English to you no matter what. If YOU don’t want to speak English, then no problem, don’t. I’ll do.” Eventually he quit complaining about that and feels comfortable speaking English now. Well, actually, he’s three and a half now, so I can afford switching between two languages, but before three I tried to stick to the minority (English in my case) language. Hope, it’ll help you!

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9 Adam November 8, 2013 at 6:17 am

Hanna, this is wise advice. Thank you for sharing your experience.

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