The role of the mother in bilingualism that involves a heritage language

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By Felicia Jennings-Winterle
Bilingual Education

You probably think I’m a mother, or that a mother could talk about this subject with more authority. Although I do not have my own children, I consider myself a partner of the parents around me. A privileged position, I would say, because I teach and play with their children, but the sleepless nights are theirs.

Jokes aside, I have the privilege of observing families with totally different baggage and expectations, but with one thing in common – ‘Brazilianness’. And within this Brazilianness, the desire, big or small, that their children speak Portuguese, in addition to the local language. So, what is the role of the mother in this process?

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Her role is, in relation to language, an extension of what she must pass on to the child: from brushing teeth to respecting oneself. To want, because if it was not important to her, she would not do it. To make it happen because, contrary to popular belief, the mother does a lot. She buys books and dvds when she goes back to her country of birth, meets with other mothers, chooses the best school, juggles the heritage language lessons with all other activities, carries the child down the subway, and often becomes a customer of the nearest Starbucks. She waits patiently for hours and is rewarded. She hears words of the sweetest language to her, from the lips of the sweetest person she knows. And, to persist because, let’s face it, children cannot visualize that the time and money invested will bear fruit in the future. Who sees this? The mother.

She recognizes how diverse the child’s repertoire will be, how she will see the world more broadly, how much more fun the vacation at grandma’s or at the cousins’ home will be. She is the one who wants (because she knows what is best for the child), who makes it happen and who persists (and teaches to persist).
More than inheritance, she can be a good example of how to be a citizen of the world. And, as the great Cazuza used to say, “only mothers are happy.”

Dedicated to my mother, my inspiration.

Also read:
The role of the father, the grandparents, the community, and the school.

 

Screen Shot 2015-10-20 at 8.49.02 PMFelicia researchers Portuguese as a Heritage Language and is the Founder and Educational Director of Brasil em Mente, the organization that maintains this platform.
© Our content is protected by autoral rights. Share only with the link, citing: Plataforma Brasileirinhos, Brasil em Mente.

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