Google+ Raising a Trilingual Child: Life Story: My Three Languages – English, Spanish and Quechua

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Sunday, January 19, 2014

Life Story: My Three Languages – English, Spanish and Quechua

(Please contact me, if you are interested to participate in the Life story series and write about your experience as a bilingual or multilingual child and/or a parent).


This is a story of  Daria Marmaluk-Hajioannou.  She is trilingual and speaks English, Spanish and Quechua, an indigenous language of the Andean region in South America. Her multilingual parents did not speak all three languages to her, but only English.  Nevertheless, the multilingual environment she was surrounded by shaped her life in a unique and a beautiful way.


I grew up hearing many different languages around me.  My grandfather spoke no English when he came to the USA in 1917, but he was a part of a group of immigrant miners who learned each other languages to help them get by.  My dad spoke half a dozen Slavic languages and used his skill as a translator during the Second World War.  It was clear to me from an early age that languages open doors. They build bridges. They offer opportunities and they broaden minds.  Being bilingual, trilingual or multilingual is a great way to introduce a child to the world and offer them the best chance of succeeding in it!


With my Russian first and last name, you might be surprised to hear that my family speaks three languages, but they are not what you might expect.  We speak English, Spanish and Quechua, an indigenous language that dates back to the Incan empire.  During my college years, I had the opportunity to study music and dance in Peru.  Spanish was the main language in all the major cities.  However, once you moved off of the beaten path and discovered more about traditional music, the language of choice was the indigenous one – Quechua.  Eventually, I was able to obtain a degree in ethnomusicology (the study of music as it relates to culture) and knowing both languages was the key to understanding Andean music and culture.


Even though I returned to the USA, my kids were raised with many bilingual and trilingual family friends and were involved in music, dance and cultural activities that allowed them to be an active part of a multilingual community.  Although, at times, they’ve wanted to fit more into mainstream culture, it’s clear to them that their experiences have given them a broader view of the world and that their language skills are still there and available to them at all times.


For me, I consider my upbringing around many languages a real gift.  It allows me to connect with more people in a way that is meaningful since we are genuinely “speaking the same language”.  Singing in various languages has allowed me to travel broadly and also create songs that are in English and one other language.  I also feel it has made me a better problem solver.  Learning a new language often means being able to see things in differently, express things in different ways and “think outside the box”.  These skills comes in handy in every aspect of life. For me, I consider my upbringing around many languages a real gift.  It allows me to connect with more people in a way that is meaningful since we are genuinely “speaking the same language”.  Singing in various languages has allowed me to travel broadly and also create songs that are in English and one other language.  I also feel it has made me a better problem solver.  Learning a new language often means being able to see things in differently, express things in different ways and “think outside the box”.  These skills comes in handy in every aspect of life.
 

words-in-English-Spanish-Quaechua-languagesHow do I stay trilingual while living in America?  Aside from my work as a musician and performer, I travel to Peru regularly and work with cultural organizations that support and strengthen indigenous culture and encourage bilingualism.  I stay connected with learning institutions and online resources in the USA that are dedicated to encouraging the study of Quechua and Indigenous culture.  I’ve also written a short E-book for children called A Child’s Life in the Andes.  It shares the day to day details of growing up in the mountains of South America and also includes songs sung in the Native language.  One of the most popular sections of the book discusses language and shows how various phrases and words translate into both Spanish and Quechua.


What can languages do?  Being bilingual, trilingual or multilingual helps us understand each other.  It increases the peace and encourages understanding.  It fosters authentic dialogue and encourages pride in identity.  There’s simply no doubt about it; learning and sharing languages, helps us build a better world!


World Music children's performer DARIA (Daria Marmaluk-Hajioannou) has spent the last two decades performing in the USA and around the world, creating music to inspire all the world’s children.  Along with numerous national awards for her culturally diverse music, Daria’s website  was given a Parent’s Choice Award and offers many great resources for teachers, parents and kids of all abilities.  
Along with bilingual versions of popular world music songs,  Daria’s “I Have A Dream” Song is used widely to celebrate MLK Day.  Her Earth Day anthem “We’ve Got The Whole World In Our Hands” is used in the US as well as in Singapore and Japan and China.  Her “Beautiful Rainbow World” song is used in Australia as part of a “Respecting Others” curriculum for preschoolers as well as in South African schools as part of a “TeachTolerance” initiative.  Daria’s live show is fully interactive as she brings a variety of exciting world traditions to life, allowing children to become a part of the celebration and the fun of exploring world cultures.

You might also like:

Life story: A Journey to Multilingualism 
Should I correct my child speaking?
Planting a language tree. Does passive language learning work?

2 comments:

  1. Quechua! Many are the words in our household that are Quechuan, though we don't speak it. My husband grew up in Lima and even in the city, Quechua was a part of his upbringing <3 Wonderful post!

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