Yiddish and English, can she cope with both?

Dear Mrs. Sander:

I'd like to ask you a question that's been bothering me for a while now.

My husband and I started out speaking in Yiddish to our Chumy. She picked up on it beautifully and understands everything we say to her. However, we enrolled her in a school where English is the spoken language. Should we change our language at home? Will she become confused and not know either of them? If we stick to one, will she pick it up faster? My problem is that it is very hard to change a language. I am really agonizing over it, since I don't know what language to tell my therapist to use.

Do you have any advice as per your experiences?

Rivky Schnitzler (Via e-mail)

Dear Rivky:

Your question is excellent and I will publish it in my next magazine under "It Worked for Us" because this is actually something that worked for us, despite Moishey's therapists' doubts (and advice against it!).

When Moishey was a baby and then a toddler, his therapists also advised us to speak in only one language so as not to confuse him and to get him to learn a language, namely English. They felt that it was ‘impossible' to have him learn 2 languages simultaneously. I told them that we are a bi-lingual family and we speak a lot of English in the home, yet, we speak a lot of Yiddish too, and I was not ready to have all of us, including my young children, speak ‘English only' at home. So, I gently ‘defied' the therapists and their advice and davened for siyata dishmaya (Divine assistance), and Boruch Hashem, it worked! Moishey picked up on Yiddish and English, and then started picking up words and phrases from my Polish and Spanish housekeeping helpers. His knack for languages was and is fantastic.

Even in our yeshiva, Bonim Lamokom, all those students who come from chassidish homes where Yiddish is the primary language, speak fluent English too.

Don't worry and do what your gut and Yiddishe Mama's heart tell you to do.

Sarah Sander

This article first appeared in issue #14 of Down Syndrome Amongst Us

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