Letizia Quaranta described her personal experience on the Internet and transformed it into a project everybody can try. The BilinguePerGioco (Bilingual Playing) is a project designed to teach parents (mother tongue and not) the most amusing way to introduce their children to languages. The advice she decided to give us clearly reveals how this project is her dream, her daily life, her vision.
1. Do not underestimate: Children’s skills. They may all seem geniuses to us (raise your hand if you have never thought it) but we are, unavoidably, not very objective and we do tend to underestimate them. In a certain way, children are geniuses. The speed at which they learn and the complexity of what they learn is stunning – after all, learning to speak, make sounds, understand meanings and syntax from the noise they hear from morning till night are amazing achievements.
2. Do not overestimate: Your skills. On maternity leave I will do this, and that, and start this… and finish that… all while baby sleeps. We all thought this, myself included, and even second and third-time mums do… you end up doing nothing you had planned, partly because babies do not sleep all the time and there are hundreds of things to do when they are asleep, and mostly because new mums are not office machines. They are hormone bombs that can spend hours cuddling a sleeping baby. I am no exception to the rule. I did almost nothing I had planned during my maternity leave, but I did start something I had not – consciously at least – planned to do. I introduced my child to a second language.
3. If you need help: Ask for it. There usually are plenty of people prepared to help mothers. Often they would do anything to give a hand with the baby, cuddle and play with it. Asking for help means admitting you cannot manage to do everything yourself, as well as loosing some control over the baby. It needs to be done. Giving birth to children and raising them is not something you should do on your own. Women have always helped each other out with children since the beginning of time and recently some men (fathers, grandfathers) have started to help. Expecting to manage everything by yourself means not understanding the problem… You are human, after all. Welcome to the club!
4. You won’t manage without: Singing. You will sing your child to sleep or wake him up with a song. You will sing as you change him and feed him, as you try to distract him and stop him from crying, as you try to get through a long car journey. You will sing for fun, to dance and to make him laugh. And you will sing to teach him another language as well…
5. My motto for when you are desperate: C’est la vie. Nobody said having children was easy – lovely, yes, easy, no. Pull yourself together – tomorrow morning, when your little one snuggles up to you in bed, you will forget that this evening you are tired and have had enough.