Monday, April 25, 2011

Bilingual Potty Training

Our house has been alive with a new adventure these days: TheFry is finally getting the hanging of “Potty Training!” We’ve been working with him little by little for the last 7 months or so. We took the whole thing in several small steps, working only at home on weekends, then gradually introducing underwear, until he finally decided in March that he wanted to wear underwear to school and not his diaper.

However, the concern we always had about potty training was how it would work in two languages.

TheFry’s nursery school has been trying to encourage him to use the potty for the last five or six months. We had hoped that nursery school would aid in potty training success, and that the social pressure of being a big boy like his classmates would help him. However, we started potty training at home before the nursery did, and we were concerned about the confusion TheFry might feel when learning potty training at the school.

As much as I thought I might speak Korean with TheFry on a daily basis, it has not turned out that way. Most of our interactions occur in English, because the words I want to say just come naturally to me. Therefore, it felt awkward and even a little silly to try and teach him two sets of words for “pee” and “poop”. At first I started teaching him the words in English and Korean, but he seemed confused, and I was constantly fumbling over the words. Therefore, I dropped the Korean vocabulary and just trained him in English.

When he started potty training at the nursery school, I wrote in Hangeul the pronunciation for the words we used for “pee” and “poop.” The teachers were kind enough to make an effort to use the English words, but I know they were more than likely going through the same thing I just described. And, given that Dexter was used to hearing only Korean from them, it only made more sense for them to potty train him in Korean. (Furthermore, I’ve been told he actively ignores his teachers when they try and speak English to him, but that’s another story for another day.)

In the end, he learned both sets of words just fine, but now that he’s mastered potty training, he only uses the Korean words. Why? Maybe it’s because he knows I understand them. Maybe it’s because he spends a large part of every weekday speaking Korean and using the Korean words for “pee” and “poop”, and switching doesn’t seem to make much sense if he knows he’s being understood. Maybe he finds that the words just come easier to him in any case.

All this makes me wonder just a little bit how he will feel in other situations in his life. I’ve often wondered if, when he finds the one he loves in the future, whether the Korean words or English words for “I love you” will come first to his mind. Or, if he continues to worship God, which language he will feel more comfortable for worship. When he writes in his diary (if he ever has one), in which language will he write?

Though I ponder all these things often enough, for now I’m just glad to not be buying any more diapers for awhile!


Anonymous said...

Sweet "Mama Fish", I have enjoyed reading your blog... I check it fairly often. A nice way for an "OLD Fish" to swim with the guppies! You are doing a wonderful job, don't fret over the little things too much... it will all work out! Thanks again for the blog, it makes my gills quiver to read the "tails" of Mama, Papa, and The Fry!
Lovingly, Gran'ma Fish