Bringing Up Bilingual Children

And the best ways to pass on cultural identity.

This article, written by SIMONETTA WENKERT, first appears on Independent.


Growing up in a bilingual household offers a gateway not only to another culture, but even to a different persona, believes Simonetta Wenkert. But, as she discovers, the children of immigrants don’t always see it that way

“How did you learn such good English?” asked the woman in the chemist. Her question threw me, though in truth it is not the first time strangers have questioned my accent. I was born here, like many Londoners, to foreign parents, in my case, an Austrian father and an Italian mother. I was educated in the UK; and in spite of my name, was never taken for anything but British as I was growing up.

My Italian wasn’t even that good when I was a child. Every summer, my mother’s sister, who lived in Rome, would take me and my sisters for a month’s holiday to the Adriatic coast. There, my Italian would slowly bed in, though I continued to make linguistic howlers. (A memorable example being, when, at the age of nine, I asked a waiter, using the most vulgar term imaginable, for a plate of lady-bits instead of figs – a mere one-letter difference.)

The Emperor Charlemagne is reputed to have said that “to speak another language is to possess another soul”. I distinctly recall when I discovered that being bilingual could allow you to slide between two discrete identities. Read more at Independent…

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