I recently had a short stay at hospital with my daughter (2). Thankfully, she is fine. Just a nasty fall that needed monitoring for 48 hours.
If you follow me, you will know that we are all learning German in the family having moved to Germany 11 months ago, now. So in the hospital, under very stressful conditions at first, I was extremely grateful for doctors and nurses who tried a little English and/or French when they realised I struggled.
While there, we were put in a room with another mum and her daughter (exactly the same age). The little girl's dad turned up once and (even though my German is not great) I am sure he corrected the mum's German while she was speaking to her daughter. Later in the evening, while on her mobile phone, she clearly spoke another language than German (couldn't identify it clearly - Eastern European). However she was speaking German to her daughter.
I, of course, spoke only French to LJ. The other mum seemed bemused at first. She didn't dare say anything despite my smiles, hellos and dankes. Finally, she mustered the courage to ask me what I was speaking to LJ and what my husband (who had been popping in and out) spoke. I explained. But my German being still limited I didn't have a chance to go into details and ask her about her situation beyond basic information.
It got me thinking. Was she not speaking her mother tongue to her daughter? How sad! I couldn't help but feel sorry for her.
I have never ever considered not speaking my own language to my child. The relationship wouldn't be the same. I guess not everybody feels this way. It is so easy to give the gift of languages to a child when they are young. But I can understand some communities/families may feel pressure to conform or integrate. They think that by speaking only the majority language their child will have a better chance in life.
An interesting article I read this week explained how it can be so much more difficult to learn your mother tongue later in life.
This episode struck me and reminded me that multilingualism is still frowned upon by some groups of society. I was living in my idealistic multicultural/multilingual bubble! I should have known better.
N.B. By the end of the stay, her little girl was saying 'merci' to mine.