When Your TCK Refuses to Learn the Language


We started out so ambitiously.  I bought Teddy Speaks French cassette tape and book.  The kids and I were going to learn some basics before we even got to our new home.  Teddy sang his ABC’s.  He said, “Bonjour,” with the cutest little French accent.  He talked about his Mama et Papa.  If we listened to it three times every week, by the end of a few months, the kids and I would know so many fun little French phrases to use in our new country.

Didn’t happen.  My little darlings, after the second, maybe third time of listening to Teddy, refused to listen to him anymore.

TCKs are notorious about languages.  They are either notoriously good at them…speaking like a native, or they refuse to even utter a foreign “hello.”  I have had both.  Some of my children were very good, some didn’t want to try.  There didn’t seem to be a middle of the road for us.  I didn’t force language learning.  I don’t force it now.  My youngest does not want to learn the local language.  I regret that, but I allow her to choose just as I did for her siblings.

Personally, I like language study.  I am not good at it, but it is like a puzzle.  There are 5000 pieces in front of you on the table.  You manage to put two together, then four, then twenty, and pretty soon, you begin to see a picture.  I hang this on that, make absurd handles to remember words, and conjugate verbs as I drift off to sleep.

Remember, no comparing yourself to anyone: just you going forward at your pace.

My present language, I have been working on for over a year.  I am tired, so I have taken a week, maybe two off.  That’s okay, I will go back.  Really, I don’t have a choice.  The only direction is forward.  Language acquisition is pretty important.  In fact, I would say it is essential for you.  But I would also say, you don’t have to speak it like a native. Remember, no comparing yourself to anyone: just you going forward at your pace.

In my cooking class, I am the only foreigner.  It is all in my new language…totally!  There are eighteen of us.  We divide up into groups of four.  Each group is assigned one dish to cook.  Last week, our group, cooked the meat.  It was a delicious lamb dish over mashed potatoes!  We set the tables, serve the food, and enjoy it all together.  While we are eating, one person from each group explains how they made their dish: salad, starch, meat, and dessert.

“Okay, Bon, it is your turn to explain to the class how we made this lamb dish.”  Remember, this is all going on in a foreign language.


“We’ll help you,” they all circled around me and promised.

“Okay, but please help me.”

I reviewed my verbs and nouns.  I do know to put, to stir, to stop, to wait, and my nouns, lamb, onions, peppers, garlic….  So in my halting, slow talk, I did a lot of putting, stirring, and waiting.  They whispered to me the words, to fry, to sprinkle, to serve.  And at the end of my two minute discourse, the class applauded.  Now how encouraging is that.  Such a little feeble attempt to speak their language, rewarded so generously.

3 thoughts on “When Your TCK Refuses to Learn the Language

  1. Good for you, Bon! I feel exactly like you about language learning. I don’t do it well unless immersed in it, but while we were in QC, I had a few sink-or-swim experiences like yours. God gives grace and help in time of need.


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