Keda, whose baby daughter is a polyglot in the making, said this in response to my concerns about being a non-native speaker missing the intimacy that would otherwise come from speaking my mother tongue with Griffin:
"I don't think you need to worry. [An Italian woman] commented that what she noticed was that when you raise a child in your mother language, you tend to do what your parents did (or say). And this is true. When I speak Afrikaans to my little girl, I can just hear my mother speaking through me. But when I switch to English...I have to think up things to say, they don't come automatically. So when I speak English it is all me, but when I speak Afrikaans, it is my ancestors. ... [G]rammar and pronunciation can always be corrected, but you are doing your child a real service by speaking to him in another language simply because you are more you."
This intrigues me, this idea that we are perhaps more ourselves in a second language because we chose to learn it and now choose to speak it. We often plan, deliberate, organize our thoughts before we speak in our second languages rather than letting it flow. Since it doesn't come automatically (at least, not for me), that makes it more purposeful, and thus more "us."
Does it? Do I agree? I'm not sure. I'm certainly more comfortable with the moi who speaks English. When I was a student in France, I used the unfamiliar language as a mask, trying out different personas before finally settling on the whimsical, word-loving, open-minded one. (Oh wait--maybe that wasn't so different from the original.) Living in Europe, attending university classes with native speakers, traveling on a shoestring, eating noxiously stinky cheeses in chalets without electricity or running water (and loving it)--all that did make me more adventurous. And all that helps me as a parent, now that I think about it. (Stinky cheese, stinky diapers, whatever, right?)
Anyway, what do you all think? Are you more "you" in your second language? Do you parent better in your second language?