Anyway, my three-year-old is growing up in a reasonably multicultural country and has travelled a bit to other countries too, and has long understood that people can speak different languages because he lives in a bilingual household. He knows a few Spanish and Japanese words thanks to some books we have around the house (and regular visits to the local Japanese restaurant). One of his favourite words to use is sakasama (upside-down in Japanese). And of course he's reasonably bilingual in German and English (though he nearly always speaks English), but he likes to translate as well and has some great ideas about which words come from which language. For example, he loves all kinds of transport and likes to spot convertible cars. Now, convertible is a pretty tricky word so I guess he assumed it was German, since German words are often longer and trickier. We saw one as we drove along one day and he said "That's a convertible. In English, we say 'no roof'." (I laughed quietly in the driver's seat.)
|What people look like, when you're 3|
Culture and different habits in different countries don't seem to bother this three-year-old either. All he wants to know about is the refuse disposal systems. He found a picture of New York in a brochure and I told him Mama and Papa had been there before he was born and that it's a fabulous city. The picture showed New York by night so he wanted to know that when we went there next (would it be by car or plane, he asked), could he stay up at night there. And then the only other question he asked, as I told him about our experiences there: what colour are the garbage bins? What a terrible mother I am that I was unable to give him a thorough answer!
|Rubbish bins or garbage cans - the only cultural difference that really matters|
It makes me sad to think that sometime in the future he's going to learn that people are discriminated against because of their race or culture or customs, and worried to think that he could fall into the same trap despite our best efforts. But for now, he knows people speak all kinds of language, they have skin varying somewhere between beige and brown, and all he really wants to know is where they put their garbage. A very acceptable state of affairs, I think.
Help me out: I'd love any tips on helping raise a really culturally-aware kid, so pass on any more suggestions you've got: books, TV/movies, general ideas, anything. Let me know in the comments.