Thursday, July 30, 2009

Growing Up Italian American and Bilingual.

Growing up Italian American has its privileges. We are brought up with an intense passion for life, which includes cooking, family, education and culture. With culture comes language, while growing up my parents struggled to speak their new language, which was English.

Both native Italians were forced to learn English while trying to survive in America. My parents learned English through conversation and just everyday interaction with Americans. My father was too busy trying to make a living to take classes or indulge in any English form of education. My mother on the hand, was home raising four children while speaking only Italian and trying to help my siblings and myself do homework in English. Needless to say, my sister was the eldest and went to kindergarten speaking Italian. English at that moment was her second language.

My mother who was the more active involved parent when it came to school had to adjust to speaking to our teachers and understanding what the American curriculum was and how her children had to learn the English language. I give my mother a ton of credit because she absolutely never acted scared or inferior when trying to learn English. Instead, she had such a great interest in learning English, that I almost feel like she learned English through our Language Arts in school. My mother is now enrolled in college and is about a semester away from receiving her Bachelor's degree. What an amazing accomplishment coming from a moment when she didn't know any English.

As the years progressed in the education system for myself and siblings, we all had a great strength in succeeding in Language Arts. For some reason, English was our strong subject, even though at home we spoke Italian and English. Actually, we spoke 'dialect' plus English, so it was an actual combined language. There was no separation of these tongues. Then, as we would often visit our family in Italy, you were then put in another situation where you were speaking proper Italian, then dialect, then English.

The strengths about being bilingual speak for themselves. As I travel to Italy often and other parts of the world, I feel fortunate to be able to have another outlet of communication. I also feel that my upbringing in the Italian culture and education in the Italian language also add value to my credibility and career when applying or interacting in the professional world. Being bilingual is a wonderful asset to own and if any parent has an opportunity to educate their child or if the parent wants to learn another language as well, it can only help not hurt. Its an asset to own in these modern times.

Here is a great article outlining the benefits of raising bilingual children:


Frank Dobner said...


Nice article. You are clearly proud of your mother. I did not grow up Italian, but probably appreciate different things of your culture than you do. I do speak Italian and have been to Italy many times.



Margaret said...

Thank you Frank.