SheKnows: Bilingual parenting matters — even if the White House says it doesn’t

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Originally published in SheKnows on August 21, 2018

Late last year, the White House has stated its intent to create an immigration system favoring refugees who can “successfully assimilate.” A senior White House official confirmed this in a January briefing: “A properly functioning immigration system promotes assimilation in all its forms,” he said.

For much of U.S. history, the country has helped immigrants escaping persecution — so putting the immigration focus on assimilation instead would be a brand-new and troubling way of deciding whether someone can legally live here as a refugee. And it may well spell doom for bilingual parenting — and for foreign languages in the U.S. on a larger scale.

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Kveller: What do you do when your beloved childhood books scare the crap out of your kids?

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This essay was published in Kveller on August 22, 2018

For three years now, I’ve been blowing a chunk of our budget shopping online. But instead of cashing in on deals for gadgets or baby wipes, I binge buy vintage kids’ books on Etsy — editions no longer in print, dating back to the late 70s, 80s, and early 90s. They aren’t rational purchases. But I have to have them.

Read more here.

Postscript to bilingual parenting article

I’m excited that my Quartz essay on bilingual parenting was picked up by social channels of The Atlantic, The New York Times (The Upshot), National Geographic, Vox, KQED, Flipboard and Pocket Top 10 and government and educational organizations, including Harvard and Stanford, in the past week.

Unfortunately, there seem to be some misconceptions, so I’d like to address them:

  1. Yes, many parents are lucky to raise bilingual/trilingual kids with less effort. That’s indeed wonderful. While this has been my experience, the process is as unique as each family member’s language ability and environment.
  2. Yes, bilingualism has lots of cognitive advantages, too many to list in a short article. It does not cause speech delays, confusion, retardation, measles or rubella.
  3. Yes, unfortunately, this is a particularly American situation, as much of the world outside the U.S. nurtures multilingualism.
In addition to the positive feedback from educators and folks who are in the same boat, it’s been interesting to read some personal comments and messages, calling me a lazy, bad parent and a dumb American (with jabs at my kid).
I encourage anyone interested to check out the work of the wonderful experts that were generous enough to speak to me during the preparation of this article, as well as the resources linked in the piece. I hope parents keep exposing their kids to many cultures and languages and don’t lose the link to their roots, despite the struggles. And that they don’t feel alone doing it.

 

Quartz: A lot of our ideas about bilingual children are total myths

This reported essay was published in Quartz on Aug. 13, 2017.

Note: There are many unique approaches to bilingualism that may or may not work for different multicultural families living in the U.S. This is just one of them. 

https://qz.com/1051986/a-lot-of-our-ideas-about-bilingual-children-are-total-myths/

“What’s that music?” my three-year-old asked as we listened to a song in a foreign language last December.

Could my toddler be showing an interest in her Russian heritage? Maybe this would be a chance to tell her about the revered winter holidays of my childhood in St. Petersburg, Russia—calling up images of the falling snow as schoolgirls in black-brown uniforms and giant bows in their hair sang carols about solidarity…

For the complete article, click here

Brit+Co: Sex and the City and the internet: my strange companions

This essay was originally published by Brit + Co, titled “How an Internet Ad for Rebound Friends Saved Me after a Breakup” on May 3, 2017. It is set in 2005.

Waiting inside Tasti D-Lite that afternoon, Divya looked nothing like a cult follower or an aging Hello Kitty devotee. In fact, her very normalcy was alarming, given that we’d met on Craigslist.

A decidedly trivial thing was to blame for our meeting. Just a few weeks prior, a cab ushered me across the Hudson River a liberated woman who, for the first time in her life, was about to live on her own. That’s when the trivial thing appeared. It nodded a solemn hello on the Manhattan side of the Lincoln Tunnel. It made itself comfortable in my cab loaded with two suitcases, a couple of overstuffed shopping bags, a printer, and a new twin-size sheet set. It squeezed through the closing elevator doors and slipped into my temporary studio apartment. That thing was silence.

“Alright,” I finally said to the silence. “What do you want?”

“Oh, nothing,” the silence indicated. “Nothing at all.”

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Brit+Co: My first real apartment gave me an identity crisis

Red Room photo

This essay was originally published by Brit+Co on April 3, 2017. It was republished by Business Insider.

My New York obsession began in childhood, before I could even speak English. All it took was a giant monkey ascending a glowing skyscraper, in a movie theater in Leningrad. I bolted outside and had nightmares for weeks afterwards. But I returned later, to see the movie, King Kong, all the way through: not for the plot, but to be whisked away into the land of glass and steel, so different than the Soviet Union on the verge of collapse.

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Kveller: Embracing the Russian food of my youth for the sake of my kids

This essay was originally published by Kveller.com on Dec. 29, 2016.

I never thought I’d miss Russian food, the unassuming cuisine of my birthplace. I was self-conscious about Russian salads, for instance, referring to boiled and chopped root vegetables loaded with mayonnaise, not microgreens. Traditional Russian recipes use just one kind of cheese, called cheese. Growing up as an immigrant kid in the United States, it’s awkward having to always explain that sour cream really does make everything better, that Herring under a Fur Coat isn’t furry, that the jiggly meat jelly is no weirder than the processed American chicken tender.

Read more here.