Thursday, February 10, 2005

READER REQUESTS YOUR ADVICE

A reader writes from Paris: Hi Esther! I really enjoy reading your blog and I decided to write to you as I have a problem which is not often discussed and may benefit others. I've been dating a non-Jewish Czech woman for about 6 months. Although I never put any pressure on her she has recently agreed to convert. That's good news for me as I am really attached to my Judaism. However there looms another large problem-- that of language. My mother tongue being English I would naturally speak to my future children in English. I also speak Hebrew and French fluently. My girlfriend has expressed her strong desire to speak to them in Czech. I have no reason to oppose this other than I've tried a bit of Czech and it turns out to be an extremely difficult language which for example has 7 grammatical cases (as does Latin), and it's clear to me I'll never speak it (and frankly I don't have the energy to learn it as I have been learning Spanish and Arabic over the last 5 years!). I don't want to find myself in a situation wherin I can't understand what my own kids are saying, and envision paranoia setting in as I imagine what my wife and kids are talking about. I know this problem is not a Jewish one but I imagine many people face it. I would be very grateful if you threw this topic out there as it's starting to drive me messhuga!! She's already giving up on her religion, how could I ask her to give up on her native tongue? Well, readers? Any feedback for our Parisian friend?

10 comments:

Judith said...

Small children learn multiple languages easily. You shouldn't forgo an opportunity for your children to learn as many languages in the cradle as they can. It's also not fair to ask your wife to give up part of her ehtnic heritage.

If you think you'll be paranoid if your wife and kids speak Chech together, maybe you don't trust this woman enough to marry her.

If you plan to speak to your kids in Hebrew as well as English, then your wife won't understand what you and the kids are saying either. If it's that important to you to keep a balance of power.

Anonymous said...

I used to date someone who taught foreign languages to children and babies. She spoke three languages fluently.

I learned that children can handle up to three languages growing up, without any problems. Until they're able to speak decently (around, if I remember right, 2 and a half or so) they may get a bit mixed up between the languages. BUT-- if one parent speaks only one language to the kids, the kids will pretty quickly learn which language to speak to which parent. Just don't have the parents mixing and matching mid-conversation the way multi-lingual adults might.
And it's a wonderful gift to give a kid, totally effortless for the kid, to speak a foreign language. And a Western kid who speaks a relatively obscure Eastern European language will possibly be a big asset should that child choose a career in international business. All positives, no negatives. Hope this helps! Best of luck,

Shaun

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the writer might want to slow things down a bit...after all, it's only been six months, and these are really heavy things to ask of the girlfriend. Regardless, it would be a shame if the children were not exposed to their mother's native language -- and the writer might be surprised to find that he picks up some Czech along the way. Relationships are about compromise, and as the writer already notes, he's asked his girlfriend to do something huge already, so it's his turn to be accommodating. But beyond that, he should look at this as an opportunity for his future children, not a burden for himself. What a gift to be able to speak more than one language fluently from early childhood! While they're at it, why doesn't the writer consider teaching his future children French as well?

Al said...

I'd like to thank you all, and especially Esther, for helping me out on this issue; it has cleared my head out. I guess I was just freaking out a bit. I hope this may have helped someone else in a similar situation.

Anonymous said...

If that's your only stumbling block (since she agreed to convert!) I'd leave well enough alone and just be ahppy to have found a good potential partner. Don't get too wrappped up in the small details. Just be happy with what you have.
And who know? You might just pick up some casual Czech along the way....

Anonymous said...

If that's your only stumbling block (since she agreed to convert!) I'd leave well enough alone and just be ahppy to have found a good potential partner. Don't get too wrappped up in the small details. Just be happy with what you have.
And who know? You might just pick up some casual Czech along the way....

Anonymous said...

Okay, let me get this straight. She was willing to give up her religion for you. She's giving up her culture for you. But she's drawing the line at being told how she's going to speak to her own kids, and you're having a fit?

Don't get married. Get a welcoming mat, cause you seem to need someone to step on.

Anonymous said...

i don't believe this is a real person asking a real question...on the other hand, a typical frogie-cultured question. You see, frenchies think that 'la frawnce' being (they think) the center of the univers, and frwench culture are the pillars of humanity, therefore languages other than theirs are just a nuisance to human existence. Grow up, man. I hope you'll get at the age of 65...

Caryn said...

I don't see why he can't learn the language if she is willing to convert to Judaism. That sounds like a good compromise to me.

It's a hard launguage? Tough, I say. I doubt converting is a walk in a park.

Anonymous said...

Give up your Czech. You will find mostly they are after the other kind of cheque. Find yourself a nice Palestinian girl and help the peace movement
Abel