Insight or Perspective: If we lose the language we lose everything!

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By Eleni Elefterias 

(Part 8)

I often hear grandparents say “My grandchildren do not understand Greek so I read to them in English!”

Really I say? So, they understand everything in English at the age of 3 but not Greek?

Well I have news for you! Children pick up language all the time.

As we read to them in any language and they look at the pictures their brains are busy decoding for meaning. The younger the child is exposed to a new language, the easier to learn it. 

How many times have I heard university students of 3rd and 4th generation Greek background say to me “Miss they just didn’t bother to teach us Greek!” 

They didn’t bother because they considered it too difficult when in fact it is all in the mindset.

If it is expected that children will learn Greek then they will. If it is a surprise that they learn Greek then they might! If we are uncertain they will learn Greek then they may not!

Especially for grandparents whose first language is not English I would recommend they only speak and read to their grandchildren in Greek. After all, their accents in English are quite often not so good anyway. I would rather my child know some Greek than bad pronunciation in English!

We should stop underestimating are young ones and feed their brains with as much language as possible. It is before the age of 3 that more neurones form in the brain than at any other age. Take advantage of this and just let nature do its work! By the time they are 9 and 10 it is already an upward battle. A battle that can and should be won nevertheless!

Good quality books are another issue. What makes a good storybook and are bilingual books the way to go? Next week we check out what makes a good children’s book.

READ MORE: Insight or Perspective: If we lose the language we lose everything (Part Six)

*Eleni Elefterias-Kostakidis is a teacher of Modern Greek and University lecturer. 

Read Eleni Elefterias’ column ‘Insight or Perspective’ in Greek, every Saturday in The Greek Herald’s print edition or get your subscription here.

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