Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Bilingualism and Growing up Abroad

I just read Libby Stephens' blog  Bilingualism and Emotional Competency. I would like to encourage parents, educators and third culture kids to read her post. It is really full of information.

Libby writes that language is so often tied to identity. I really agree on this one. Many of you have probably read my story. I was born and bred in Africa. After living there for the first 19 years of my life, I left Zimbabwe and headed off to the Netherlands to study at university. All my years in Africa had not changed the colour of my blond hair and blue eyes. My passport too was Dutch. So even though I had never really lived there many people referred to me as the Dutch girl. Well let me tell you that "the Dutch girl" was so happy that her parents had made the effort to teach her to speak, read and write her own language: Nederlands (or Dutch).

During my time in Africa many hours of my holidays were spent learning Dutch. It was compulsory. My parents always ensured that we spoke Dutch in the home. You must understand that all my schooling was in English. In Malawi I attended international schools. Often it was very tempting to switch to English when I was playing with my siblings, but my parents kept their ears open.

We were encouraged to write letters in Dutch to our grandparents and extended family. My mother ensured a never-ending supply of Dutch children's books. In Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe there was a small library with Dutch children's books and so we would travel 366 km to get new library books. I am telling you this to show you the amount of effort needed to learn a language or to keep the language fluent.

I am so grateful that my parents encouraged us and made such an effort to teach us our family language. How would I have ever been able to communicate with my grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins etc if I had not been able to speak Dutch? Please parents make wise choices on this language issue. Seek expert advice, don't take the easy road. Remember language has everything to do with identity. Remember there is also a language of the heart.   

Every now and then I meet people who regret that their parents did not teach them to speak their home language. Well I could write another whole post on this subject but maybe I can summarize it in two main words: PAIN and REGRET.

Morgu file Vahiju
Recently I even read that bilingual brains are more healthy.  Canadian neuroscientist Ellen Bialystok finds that people who speak two languages cope significantly better with the disease. Even late-life language learning is beneficial, probably because it is way of keeping the brain active.

Some time ago I wrote a post in Dutch called taal.
I also wrote about the book Make Your Child Multilingual by Silke Rehman.This is my most recent post: Third culture kids learning their mother tongue.

Do you have advice on bilingualism or multilingualism? Do you have tips for parents? Did you grow up bilingually? What's your story? Please share it.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Flexibel Leven - met een slaapzak op zak: het leven van een TCK

Dit is deel 2 geschreven door mijn zus, zij is mijn eerste gastblogger. Bedankt! In deel 1 heeft zij geschreven over Flexibiliteit en medeleven van een TCK. Hier komt het vervolg: 

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Ik weet niet meer of het een uitspraak is van mijzelf of van één van mijn broers maar na weer een verhuizing vroegen wij ons af waar thuis dan eigenlijk was… Het antwoord dat mijn moeder daarop gaf was: “Waar je slaapzak is, dat is thuis”.

Voor veel TCK’s zal dat vaak zo voelen. Het “thuis zijn” is een vluchtig concept. Je bent ergens nog maar net en meteen moet je al naar een nieuwe school, zwem- of muziek les… Je moet zo snel doen alsof je thuis bent terwijl het allemaal nog zo vreemd aanvoelt. In een onbekende omgeving was mijn slaapzak en ons gezin het enige dat een gevoel van geborgenheid bood, het enige dat niet vreemd was. Het gevoel dat je thuis bent is dan niet zo sterk verbonden aan een huis of aan andere materiele spullen, het zit in het geritsel van die slaapzak, de geur en de kleur.

Ik weet nog goed dat ik naar een nieuwe school ging waar je een bruin koffertje moest hebben waar je naam met witte letters op stond. Ik was ongeveer negen jaar en het was belangrijk voor mij dat mijn schooluniform klopte en dat ik dus ook het juiste koffertje had. We waren nog maar net verhuisd maar mijn vader zorgde dat mijn naam in nette, witte letters geschilderd werd en de verf was nog maar net droog voor dag 1 in Grade Four. En toen bleek dat mijn ongewone Nederlandse naam in koeienletters op afstand te lezen was terwijl klasgenoten hele kleine, bescheiden lettertjes hadden. Tja. Zo is elke TCK wel eens de vreemde vogel. En na zo’n dag ben je blij om “thuis” in die bekende en vertrouwde slaapzak te kruipen.

Foto gemaakt door mijn zus
Wat ik nu als ATCK als groot voordeel ervaar is dat ik niet veel nodig heb om een thuis te maken. Bij deze meest recente verhuizing heb ik wel heel wat dozen laten verschepen maar die spullen heb ik niet nodig om mij thuis te voelen op een nieuwe plek. Ik vind het heerlijk om zo flexibel te zijn! Ja natuurlijk zal het best een tijd duren voordat ik echt thuis ben in Gent maar vanaf dag één, dat ik mijn slaapzak uitrolde in een hoek van de nieuwe woonkamer kon ik het thuis noemen. En ook al kruipen er mieren over de keukenvloer en versta ik de buurman niet. Ik ben thuis hier.

Thuis? met dank aan Arvydas Morgue file
Het aanpassingsvermogen dat je met verhuiservaring opbouwt is waardevol. Met wat creativiteit en hetgene wat zich in een nieuwe omgeving aanbiedt kan een gezin vaak in korte tijd een thuis gevoel creëren. Misschien is het de manier waarop je een simpele pasta schotel maakt, een kaarsje aansteekt of de aanwezigheid van de verjaardagskalender aan een spijker aan de muur... Thuis kan je bij je hebben zonder veel mee te hoeven sjouwen.
                                    
                                                                  ************

Ken je het boek Home Keeps Moving al van Heidi Sand-Hart? Het is geschreven door een adult third culture kid (ATCK) en het gaat onder andere over de vele verhuizingen: Home keeps moving....
Een andere vraag die vaak speelt voor kinderen die in het buitenland opgroeien en die vaak verhuizen is: Waar kom ik vandaan? 

Hoe creëer jij een gevoel van "thuis"? Heb je tips?  

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Twitter update week 38: news about kids growing up globally

Sorry to have become a little slack about writing my twitter updates. I posted a comment on an interesting blog Expat with Kids. She wrote a post about third culture kids and she has several posts on this topic. She gave me a compliment for my twitter update which made me feel I must write a new update.

Autumn started today on this side of the globe
This is what I twittered about recently. I hope the links lead you to information you are looking for. By the way autumn started today on this side of the globe.

Are you a third culture kid? Do you agree with the term? Read blog for some thoughts:

Infographic of the modern third culture kid: via interesting! Home? = complicated 

Great article Sharing TCK experience thro' design Nice information package on TCKs international project?

6 Positive strategies to make a teenage repatriation less traumatic:
any advice?

Heard of the ? visit site and click on "news" to read an interview by South China Morning Post 

Culture shock: 24/7 or never again?   

Social media: What parents should know important for TCKs

Post by WifeinaSuitcase English as She is Spoke* Is it "rubbish" or "garbage"?

TCK How to Cope with Change: my top 5 tips
 

Are you global minded? How about your kids? What are you doing about it?

Love the suggestions in this blog post! Responsible global citizenship builds bridges  

5 things to look for in your college hunt, part of our guide for : .

What kind of stressors affect our TCK kids during times of transition?  

Have you heard this? 101 pianos set up in Tilburg - play me, I'm yours!!

Nederlandse kinderen in het in : artikel bij wat vindt jij ervan?

If you would like to read more twitter updates about children growing up in other cultures:
 Please add your news or links. It's all about children growing up in other cultures. Thanks.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Raising awareness about third culture kids: a brilliant idea.

Recently I stumbled on an interesting article in the Denizen online magazine. It is an interview with Alicia Ingruber (an ATCK) and the titel of the article is Sharing the TCK Experience through Design. I was impressed by the content of the article and even by the title.

Alicia is an adult third culture kid, she was born in Australia, and lived in the Philippines, Canada, Cyprus and New Zealand. I was also excited to discover that she is partly Dutch too! At the age of 22, she discovered she was a third culture kid (TCK). She is a graphic designer and she created an information package for young TCKs moving to New Zealand.

There are 3 parts to the TCK information package:
  1. A children's book for 6 - 10 year olds. It is a story all about moving and going to a new school.
  2. A booklet for parents, with on one side the positive aspects and on the other side the negative aspects of being a third culture kid. It includes tips for parents.
  3. It is a card game: all about creating a sense of belonging. It is a conversation starter.
 


Alicia "We need to get more awareness out there. Being a TCK is something you should be proud of, and that there are so many people going through the same things you’re going through."  






I am excited about the information package. Is it not possible to make it an international project? A global information package available for parents, teachers, international schools, expats, companies etc? What do you think? Could it be possible? Do you have suggestions? Please let me know. Thanks.

Friday, 16 September 2011

New book: Emotional Resilience and the Expat Child by Julia Simens

Julia Simens has recently written the book Emotional Resilience and the Expat Child practical storytelling techniques that will strengthen the global family.
Julia Simens is an author, educator, consultant and presenter with a focus on international relocation. This has kept Julia coming and going from the USA for over 20 years. She has worked on five continents with families who are relocating all over the world. With a focus on family therapy and early childhood education she has helped many children and families adjust to their global lifestyle. Read more: http://www.jsimens.com/

Doug Ota, child psychologist has forwarded the book. He writes that the book "has broken the skill of understanding feelings into easy digestible and imminently practical steps that any parent can apply. No book has ever done so with the special issues of an expatriate or mobile population in mind."

Definition of the word "Resilience" according to Wikipedia:
"Resilience refers to the idea of an individual's tendency to cope with stress and adversity. This coping may result in the individual “bouncing back” to a previous state of normal functioning, or using the experience of exposure to adversity to produce a “steeling effect” and function better than expected."

The book is essentially written for families with younger children (unto approximately 8 years old) but it contains lots of information on different kinds of emotions (like fear, anger, grief, sadness, and aggression, just to name a few). It would be good for parents, grandparents, teachers and anyone working with third culture kids (global nomads) or expat children to read this book. Let's face it we all want to raise resilient children, don't we?

In the book Julia writes "Reflections about moving" and one sentence just jumps out of the page. It is the sentence:"Children understand and want to talk about what their life has been being an expat child". I think it is so true. Remember I know what she is talking about, I made several international moves as a child. I think this would also be true for children of refugees, immigrants, international adoptees and other kids known as cross cultural kids. So please let's make an effort to talk with these kids moving globally.

Watch this film and experience the book launch in May 2011 at the New International school in Thailand.

 

Here is a book review of "Emotional Resilience and the Expat Child" written by Wordgeyser (an expat blogger living in the Netherlands). 


Listen to Jo Parfitt interview Julia Simens on the Writers Abroad Radio Show. It's all about why Julia wrote the book.

Julia wrote an article for the website Expat women For Mothers: But just how resilient are you raising your children to be? 


Interested in reading more books on this topic?

Do you have any tips to raise resilient children? Please add your tips.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Flexibiliteit en medeleven van een TCK

Graslei, centrum Gent, België

Mijn zus is pas verhuisd vanuit Canada naar België. Dat was haar elfde verhuizing – geloof ik. België is het 7e land dat zij nu thuis gaat noemen. Terwijl zij een tijdje geleden druk bezig was met inpakken las zij op deze blog dat “vaak verhuizen” boven aan de lijst stond van nadelen van de (a)TCK ervaring. Dat zette haar tot nadenken. Het is een voorrecht dat zij mijn eerste gastblogger zal zijn. Welkom en bedankt. Ik hoop in de toekomst vaker gasten hier aan het woord te laten komen. Hier volgt deel 1 van haar bijdrage Verhuizen als voordeel.

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Als TCK ben ik mij in meerdere landen thuis gaan voelen. Al de verschillende culturen hebben toegevoegd aan de vorming van mijn persoon, de gewoontes en tradities waar ik mij mee identificeer. Een TCK heeft een flexibele identiteit waarmee je medeleven kan tonen aan hele verschillende mensen en dat zie ik als voordeel.

Blue Jays stadion- Rogers Centre Toronto
In de week vóór mijn meest recente verhuizing ben ik nog naar een honkbal wedstrijd geweest van de Toronto BlueJays. Ze speelde tegen een Amerikaans team en van te voren – traditie getrouw – werd zowel de Canadese als het Amerikaans volkslied gezongen. De tekst werd geprojecteerd op een scherm in het stadion en ik hou van zingen dus ik zong allebei mee. Niet omdat ik mij nou ontzettend verbonden voel met die nationaliteiten maar wel uit respect. Een volkslied heeft een plechtige waarde die ik op veel plaatsen in de wereld in grote en kleine ceremonies heb mogen ervaren. Niet meezingen vind ik altijd een beetje brutaal – en je ziet het zo vaak, vooral bij sport evenementen.

Ik raakte aan de praat met een aantal toeristen waar ik naast zat en tijdens een pauze vroeg iemand waarom ik allebei de volksliederen meezong. Goeie vraag. Toen ik uitlegde dat ik Nederlandse was en geboren in Malawi begreep de desbetreffende dame er nog minder van. Er is geen enkel volkslied dat ik helemaal uit mijn hoofd ken, wel zijn er vijf of zes die ik aardig mee kan zingen!

Ik zing mee omdat ik mij wil verbinden met het moment en de mensen om mij heen. Door mee te zingen hoop ik waardering te uiten voor de plechtigheid, voor het samen zijn. Dat betekent niet dat ik het eens ben met alles waar deze staten voor staan. Ik kan mij voorstellen dat je als Canadees of Amerikaan op deze manier de honkbalspelers bemoedigd. Ik kan mij voorstellen… Het is een manier om mijn inlevingsvermogen die over de jaren door vele verhuizingen gecultiveerd is te uiten.

Schrijver Adriaan van Dis vat het voor mijn gevoel goed samen. Hij heeft het in zijn boek Tikkop (2010) hier niet specifiek over TCKs maar ik voelde mij aangesproken. Jij ook?

“Zwjimelaars waren het, aanstellers die grote complotten vermoedden, maar toch leerde hij van die mensen: ze maakte zijn wereld groter, verpletterde hokjes in zijn kop. Je kon in twee, drie landen leven, ook als je niet rijk was, en in meerdere culturen. Tussen fluweel en schuurpapier. Het decor bepaalde je rol. Als je niet precies wist wie je was, moest je zo nu en dan een ander kunnen zijn.”

Friday, 9 September 2011

Third Culture Kids Going to University

Graduation
Have you heard of Denizen Magazine? It is an online magazine dedicated to third culture kids also known as TCKs. There are more than 14 people contributing to this magazine. See the list of contributors here. It is a very multicultural group of people that have lived in many countries of the world. I am enthusiastic about one of their latest articles: A Third Culture kids guide to college. The article is full of links and worth reading if you or someone you know is going off to university or college. Please share it with your friends and family.

I remember the question I came to dread when I started university here in the Netherlands. It was the question: "well where are you from?" Now there someone just asked me one of the most difficult questions there is to answer. In my mind I would think shall I give a short answer or shall I give the whole story? The short answer was "I am from Friesland" (that is up in the north of the Netherlands, where my dad comes from). By the way in Friesland many people speak Frisian. I can actually speak some Frisian too. It has happened that when I gave the short answer and said that I came from Friesland, the reply was "so that explains your accent". Little did they know that the accent in my Dutch was actually an English accent. Now for the long answer I sometimes gave: I was born in Zambia, lived in Malawi, my parents now live in Zimbabwe. My parents are Dutch but I have never really lived here. Usually after the long answer our conversation would end. We had no similarities, my background was so totally different to their story. Occasionally there was the odd question: in what kind of house did you live in? What did you eat there?

Denizen Magazine has another article on 8 do's and don'ts for introducing your TCK background. How can you celebrate your experience abroad without boasting? It's worth reading if you are about to start at a new school or college.
The first tip is interesting:

"Don't give everyone you meet your life story"

So maybe I should have answered with the short answer instead of giving people and overload of information within a few minutes of meeting me?

A book worth reading if you have just started university is "The Global Nomad's Guide to University Transition" written by Tina Quick. She is an adult Third Culture Kid (ATCK) who, having made 18 moves (9 of them before her 10th birthday) understands well the cycle of loss and grief involved in a cross-cultural lifestyle. Tina has raised her own TCKs across four cultures and continents including Asia, Africa, Europe and North America. On the website International Family Transitions Tina gives a list of 10 things every global nomad should know before leaving for university.Check it out.

Recently I wrote 2 blog posts in Dutch. One is about one of my first days at university and the other has 5 tips for students coming from overseas.
Waar kom je vandaan?
5 tips voor jongeren die vanuit het buitenland komen en in hun "thuisland" gaan studeren

Do you have advice for third culture kids going to university or college? Please share it with us. What were your experiences?

Image thanks to hmm360 Morgue file

Monday, 5 September 2011

Twitter update 5 september news about third culture kids

I want to share some good links with you. I twittered about these links the past few days.
Family fun!

10 Lifestyle habits of third culture kids http://bit.ly/nsQKSz written by Brian Royer

You might be a third culture kid: if you speak 2 languages, but can't spell in either...


interview with TCK who is president of a university in Paris: all about
&career

Bilingual babies' vocabulary linked to early brain differentiation: via

@Windmilltales Todays blog post Xpat Blog Hop - Hardest thing to adjust to..
5 tips for future to Holland!

life has another post. Hope you're liking them, community. Post by James R.Mitchner

Anyone got a hankering for sweet potato fries with garlic & Thai basil? lovely blog by and 4 !

'Should our kids go native too?' International vs. local schools, via Expatica. http://bit.ly/qBN36P

Expat Divorce. What about the kids?

J Simens.com New Post - World-wide childhood games teach valuable skills.
Read it now at http://bit.ly/oDfKW9

5 tips for surviving the worst roommate ever written by a graduate TCK

Wereldschool: Boekentip voor expats om kinderen voor te bereiden op vertrek: Anderland boeken. Biedt gespreksstof en handvatten.

Multicultureel opvoeden, ouders willen wel maar weten niet hoe..

Image thanks to Kakisky Morgue File

Friday, 2 September 2011

Third culture kids learning to be themselves

Today it's all about the word "LEARN". You may have seen the 3 short films called MOVE, EAT, and LEARN. Well I am writing a post on each word. The first post was Global nomads on the move en second post was the palettes of the global nomad, all about food. I am writing about these three words because the words capture the life of third culture kids well.

Third culture kids are sometimes called chameleons. Recently Libby Stephens had a transition seminar with 36 third culture kids (TCKs) and the kids were asked to write a list of charateristics of TCKs. One of the words on the list was chameleons. Chameleons adapt well to their environment. They can change colour. The changing of the colour is for social signalling and for purpose of camouflage. Third culture kids, just like chameleons are experts in adapting to their environment. It is something they have had to learn. It is something I had to learn. The Dutch girl with blond hair and blue eyes growing up in Africa. Every time I was placed in a new situation I had to observe, watch and learn:

Chameleon
  • What are the rules here? 
  • What is "normal"? 
  • What do they expect me to do? 
  • What am I not meant to do?
  • How can I pretend not to be different?

The observing, watching and learning was tiring. Adapting again and again and again and again. Usually it happened unconsciously. Trying to mix into the new environment. Even when I came to the Netherlands to study, I looked just like all the other Dutch students but I felt so different. It was so confusing. I felt so lost. How could I learn to be just like them? Would it be possible? Recently I discovered that there is a word that describes me "a hidden immigrant", I look the same but think differently due to my experiences growing up abroad. Something I have been thinking about is: could it be possible to adapt too much to my environment and thus loose a little of myself in the process? I think that could be possible and it is a little scary.

Have you read the poem by Whitni Thomas called "Colors". It is written by a missionary kid (MK). It is about growing up in a Yellow country and having Blue parents. Living in the Blue land there is still something Yellow deep inside and living in the Yellow land the person wants to be Blue. This is the ending:

"Why can't I be both?
A place where I can be me.
A place where I can be green.
I just want to be green." 


I want to learn to be green. To accept and learn just to be myself. To adapt and adjust when necessary but not to lose a part of myself. Growing up in another culture has made me different. What about you? How is your learning process? Have you learned to be green? Have you accepted yourself just as you are? Please share your thoughts with us on this topic.

Here you can watch the short film "Learn". All about learning in other cultures...

Read my post about Cultural identity confusion and third culture kids.

Image thanks to Pablogv2004 Morgue file.