David turned 2.5 yrs old last month, and I haven't really written about his development lately...partly because I figure it really isn't that interesting to read about someone else's child month-by-month. :)
But there are some milestone issues I like to address, and since we are raising a bilingual child, that is something to comment on. He has taken a big leap forward from a few months ago.
One Parent, One Language
It's worked pretty well for Andrei to speak Russian and for me to speak English at home. I had been used to speaking more Russian, but now I can switch back and forth pretty easily and stick to English even when everyone else around is speaking Russian. Like if A. is explaining something to David in Russian, I might jump in and reinforce what he's saying, but in English. It might sound funny to someone listening in, but it works.
David has demonstrated for a while that he knows to use different languages with different people. He has always called Andrei "Papa," but will talk to me about "Daddy," and while he calls me "Mommy," he refers to me as "Mama" to Russian friends and relatives. If he is conversing or even watching TV in one language, he will explain it to the other parent in his/her own language, and so on.
Keeping it Even
David started out speaking more English, but his Russian has caught up, especially with his paternal grandparents speaking only Russian. The problem that will come up in a few years will be how to keep up the English while living in Russia. Attending school will probably skew his preference in one direction. I'm afraid if he doesn't have enough English input, he won't want to use it anymore. I meet a lot of missionary kids who are English dominant, but they tend to have 2 English-speaking parents, and don't attend Russian school. So I'll have to talk to some other cross-cultural families. If we lived in the U.S. at some point we would need to find a Russian-speaking community.
When You're the Minority Parent...
It can be kind of embarrassing and attention-getting to speak your native language with your child in public when you live in a different country. Especially when a tantrum is involved! It's hard because I want to connect with people and I feel like it gets awkward as soon as the English comes out. Sometimes if a babushka or someone comes up and starts talking to him, I talk to them but not to him so I don't have to reveal my other language.
A friend encouraged me not to be embarrassed, because it's a small sacrifice in the long run. A few stares in my direction in exchange for a lifetime of fluency in TWO languages? It might feel awkward to ME, but he is not suffering. Of course it might be rude in certain company, and it's helpful if Andrei or someone else clarifies what I'm saying to other people present so that it doesn't seem so exclusive. As for speaking softly, do I want to send David the message that speaking another language or English in particular is something to be ashamed of? That's something I think about.
We're not in danger here when we speak English. We live in a calm, residential neighborhood. On public transportation people aren't supposed to speak loudly anyway.
But what about social skills? I worried about that, too. I cannot teach David how to properly speak to other Russians...if I tell him what to say, the "one parent, one language" turns into "one parent and only at home where no one can hear." Nor do I read him Russian children's books. He will hear them, just not from me. I am not everything to him; there are other caretakers in his life.
Though D. used to speak English to people on the street, he has now figured out on his own that he needs to speak Russian. So I don't need to worry about that anymore. And he is starting to interact with other kids at church, too. I think he is going to be pretty social, and that's a plus for someone needing to be resilient as he navigates between cultures.
I don't have the perfect example, but here is David interacting recently (on YouTube):
More Russian than English
More English than Russian