Friday, October 25, 2013

The Expat Child (Language)

Growing up in small Midwestern USA, I'm pretty sure I didn't even hear a foreign language until I was in elementary school.  At that point, say maybe third grade, I remember learning some numbers or maybe colors in Spanish.  That constituted my entire foreign language learning until I was in high school.

My daughter on the other hand, has grown up in a multicultural family, up until we moved to China hearing three language on a regular basis, and now hearing four language regularly.  Oh how are lives are different!

I'm sure we often put ourselves in a position of thinking back to how our childhood is different from our child(ren's).  While I had an amazingly simple and happy childhood, I wasn't traipsing around the world like my child, learning a foreign language and meeting people from all walks of life. I often wonder how this will change the person my child is long term, for good or bad.

I think one of the most amazing things about being an expat is all the experiences the children get living abroad and immersing themselves in another culture.  I love that six days a week, my daughter is learning Chinese.  Even if she never goes on to speak Chinese after our assignment, I hope this learning had helped her brain to form new paths and allows her other opportunities, ones that I never had.

One of my favorite stories so far is from last year and a nod to language learning of all kinds while abroad.  Our daughter was going to a British school, and she says to my husband very excitedly one afternoon, "Daddy, guess what trash can is in Chinese?"

Hubby says, "What is it kiddo?"  At this point, I can tell he is super impressed not long into our move and she already knows words in Chinese and can remember them.

Kiddo says, "Trash can in Chinese, is RUBBISH BIN."

Now for anyone confused, rubbish bin is a trash can in British English.  Not quite Chinese, but hey she is learning!  She isn't just learning Chinese, she's learning many different things.  I think you would be hard pressed to find quite the same experience, with world class learning, in the US.  Just one of the many reasons we choose to move abroad.


  1. The expat kids I have met (As adults) have all been great and very interesting people! It is cool she will have such a broad perspective!

  2. I appreciate the words of encouragement. We like to think we aren't ruining our children by living a slightly nomadic life.