My bilingual baby!
My child is British but his ethnic origin is half Greek and the other half is well mostly English with a dash of French, Dutch and Welsh.
As a baby I started speaking at a super young age. My first word at 6 months was ‘look’ and I’d said 30 words by 9 months. My parents spoke to me in both English and Greek so I was fluent in both but remember clearly deciding never to utter another Greek word at home, once I started school and presumably feared being different in any way.
My forced weekly attendance with my brother to Saturday Greek School ensured I’d never forget my Greek though and although we despised ‘wasting our saturdays away’ at the time, on reflection, we secretly had so much fun learning Greek swear words with our mates (no they weren’t on the curriculum), scoffing penny sweets from the tuck shop (no hallumi in sight) and checking out the cute mini Peter Andre type boys on break time! Shamefully I got an A in French GCSE and a B in Greek by the time my journey at Greek school ended, but that’s besides the point-I think I believed I’d walk it being a British Greek and well I didn’t. C’est la vie eh!
Most importantly, Greek school cemented my roots, giving me a real sense of identity: a competence in another language which helped me connect with my grandparents and family here and abroad along with an understanding of my Greek Orthodox religion and most importantly, honed my ability to Greek dance Zemebekiko style. Opa!
My child is now 2 and understands Greek. He has a wide vocabulary in English and although he knows several Greek words, I’d love him to be fluent. My Mother has encouraged me to speak more Greek to him and not just rely on her and my father so I’m going to really put more effort in. Who knows by the time Oliver finishes Greek School and takes his own Greek GCSE I might make just make that A in retakes!
Photograph ©Peter Broadbent.