“There is no final destination but a journey”
Fighting for what is truly important for you is never easy but looking back at this experience, I now realize the importance of persistence, patience and consistency when it comes to saving what’s valuable for you.
As a first-gen immigrant, I always told myself that I will be bringing my kids up with a strong sense of Sri Lankan Culture. Naturally, I was determined to pass them this beautiful language of ours, imagined them to be not only speaking in Sinhalese but dreamed of teaching them to write in it as well. Little did I know then what I was setting myself up to and the challenges that may come my way raising my little ones away from Sri Lanka.
We started off well, having my mother around to help me for the first six months and being lucky enough to visit Sri Lanka when my daughter, Kiasha was 6 months and 2.5 years did wonders. While knowing essential English words, she could speak excellent Sinhalese for her age, even full sentences, called me “Ammi” and my little bubble was perfect.
Pop! That didn’t last long, after returning from our last trip to Sri Lanka, my mother didn’t join me back, I returned to work and she started Childcare. Initially I was worried that she would struggle at care as she predominantly spoke in Sinhalese and often mixed words from both languages in a sentence but she surprised me by adjusting beautifully.
She picked up English words pretty quickly and it didn’t take her long, to come home from care one day and call me “Mummy”. I tried to remind her a few times that she has always called me ‘Ammi’ but it was her own way of adjusting to the new environment and that is when I knew that it is not so simple. This was her way for building her identity and making sense of where she belonged. That day my heart broke a little realizing the reality that was in front of me but I was also hopeful.
A year passed, she kept dropping more Sinhala words every day until one day she chose not to speak or respond to me in Sinhalese at all. I felt defeated but I determined that this is not the end of the road.
That’s when I started doing my research and this has been my learning so far;
Patience is key
Patience, persistence and gentle encouragement guided by your child’s interest.
Read & RESEARCH
Read evidence based research to guide and support your thinking
FOLLOW THE CUES
Follow your child’s cues and their pace (Never force it or they will quickly lose interest)
Finding teaching opportunities though reading, fun activities, nature walks (best way to learn) and daily routine
books, books, books
Books, Books, Books! – story times and lots of reading with Sinhala picture books that are colourful with only a few characters and a simple yet interesting story line
‘Relearning’ for Bilingual Kids
This week we learnt about colours in sinhalese and my daughter keeps prompting me to keep asking her what each colour is in sinhalese and now we have made it into a fun little game! We are ‘relearning’ and enjoying it.
While I’m no expert, though this blog, I will continue to share with you learning activities we do, research that I’ve read, our favourite story books and any practical tips on what has worked really well for us in our little journey of raising little Lankans in our home away from our motherland.
My daughter now chooses to call me “Ammi” and is interested in learning more and more sinhala words everyday. She is curious to learn her Ammi and Thaththi’s mother tongue, picks Sinhala books for story time and asks me to practice with her until she gets it right. This makes my heart truly jump for joy! It’s a long road ahead but she has now given me hope and we are both enjoying this unique opportunity of connecting in our own special way.
I’m Menuri Subasinghe, a full time working mother of two beautiful children (both under 5, with just over a 1-year gap between, so you can also call me a juggling queen). I moved to Australia from Sri Lanka with big dreams, and now call this beautiful city of Melbourne ‘home’. I work in higher education and I’m passionate about the international student learning journey, transition, and employability.
Despite the fact that a huge part of who I am has become trying to be the best mama to my little girl and cheeky boy, parts of myself that also makes me happy (and sane) are: drinking coffee, photography, home baking, wine-ing (without whining), and traveling (the current pandemic situation is not helping!). When I’m not café hopping, having brunch with family, photographing my kids, and baking cakes for them, I love to travel and collect experiences to tick off my bucket list.Creating meaningful memories with my little family, work-life-self-care balance, and staying connected to my Sri Lankan roots are core values for me. Follow along on my adventures as I share my journey of motherhood through Instagram and this blog.