My little bilingual toddler

I belong to a Facebook group of bilingual parents and it’s great.

I have talked about how I don’t know what to do about teaching Roz Tonga haven’t I? About how I despair that because my Chitonga is so mixed in with Chinyanja that I flow in and out of these two languages so often, I would be teaching her a mixture designed to confuse?  I have? Haven’t I? You know, about how especially with my sisters, in the same paragraph I might use English, Tonga and Nyanja words without pausing for breathe and sometimes throw in Bemba words for added oomph?

I haven’t?




I tend to do that.

So anyway, this is one of the reasons I’m finding it difficult on my end to teach Roz anything in my mother tongue. But since joining this particular Facebook page, I have decided, feck it, I’ll teach her my brand of mish-mash language anyway. after all, there’s only me, he aunt and cousins here and they will understand it.

Someone suggested that I pick one particular activity and stick to Chitonga whenever we do it, and I picked saying good morning and when I need to wash her face. I’ll expand it in good time, but for the moment, slow and steady and all that.

For months now I’ve been waking up each weekend with,

“Wa ona buti Rozalia?” how did you sleep/good morning.

and the answer is meant to be

“Kabotu” fine

And every morning she has broken my heart with

“ona buti kabotu”

which makes no sense at all, but kudos for tryig kid. So I always smile and ask,

“Woona Kabotu?” you slept well?

And she says yes. You can see where the confusion is, right?

The other place I have tried is the bathroom. I give most of the instructions in Chitonga. Come take a bath, come brush your teeth, come wash your face, come on, wash your face, all these I say in Chitonga.

Today, oh today! I was getting ready for college and she woke up super early and came into the bathroom with me. so I said,

“Roz, kobola usambe kumenso” Come and wash your face

And she ran out saying,

“No mummy, I don’t need to wash my face”


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1 Response

  1. Maud says:

    So interesting! A second language is an amazing gift to give a child – even if you think nobody will ever understand her! And how wonderful that you have a mixture of all those languages – can you speak them all separately? I’m so ignorant of how it would work in a multilingual culture.

    Does your husband speak Polish to Roz too?

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