21 October 2010

Which language says 'Mother' best?

At school, my son gives me a hurried, "Bye, Rose!" Not mommy, not 'Anne', the Turkish word for mother, but Rose.

My two-year-old called everyone 'Baba', father or daddy in Turkish, until recently, and now she's learned Anne.  I hear 'mommy' when I ask my son to say, "Can I please have x-y-x, Mommy?" and he repeats.

Is this some kind of permissive parenting style? Some sort of confluence of culture where anything goes?

Not really, but being raised in Turkey has made my kids acquire language differently than I expected. My mother-in-law has hybridized English and Turkish, calling me 'Rose Anne' in front of the kids. As a result of American movies, my in-laws still think everyone (rudely) addresses their parents by their first name in America, even though I correct them. It gets confusing.

English at home, Turkish outside of the house, my husband and I agreed. But when I'm with the kids outside of the house, I hesitate.

If I speak Turkish in public, everyone will understand what I am saying, and with some regret that I care, it means they will be more likely to think I am a good mother.

Four years of raising children in Turkey, though, and some phrases in Turkish come more quickly than in English. Networks of expat women raising kids abroad help soothe my worries, while some articles remind me of the difficulty of being disciplined and consistent.  It feels like every day I choose my language.

Has your native language been shaped by a change of location?
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