There is a new women’s clothing store on the corner of 2nd Ave and 41st Street in Manhattan. Apart from the distressing orange and paisley strapless jumper displayed in the window, the thing that stood out about this store was its name: Dor L’Dor. Seeing the sign across the street all during brunch, we could not help but discuss the name. It was generally agreed that it was a dumb name that didn’t actually mean anything. The L’ gave the illusion of French, but then it should be Le Dor. But ‘dor’ isn’t a word in French, unless it’s d’or, which means ‘of gold’. Then at least it would D’or le D’or…which makes absolutely no sense.
But the word seemed very familiar to me and I was left with one of the odd situations that comes from knowing a word and what it means, but not remembering which language it belongs to. Didn’t it mean ‘difficult’? No, that’s zor in Turkish. I almost confused it for cor in Italian, which means ‘heart’. I stopped eating and adopted my thinking face so I could concentrate. I then tuned out all the laughter at seeing by my thinking face. Finally, it hit me.
“It means ‘pain’ in Portuguese!” I should have known this more quickly, considering how many times my migraines prompted me to explain that my bedroom eyes were actually due to my “dor de cabeςa”. I felt better and continued eating my bagel and lox.
Though I’m not comfortable calling myself a ‘balanced bilingual’, I am still able to navigate my way through a number of languages other than English. I never once thought whether or not this caused me confusion or problems despite these dor moments. I once even forgot both English and Portuguese words for ‘map’ and could only think of the Turkish word (harita) and even then, I would never consider this a disadvantage.
There’s been a lot of controversy over bilingualism and bilingual education in the United States. Politically, this question has become inextricably linked to the debate on immigration. Without delving into that particular can of worms, there are still many issues to look at concerning the case for or against bilingualism, especially in children.
Because this is a hefty topic, or at least more than I care to include in one single post, I’ve decided to devote the week’s posts to issue of bilingualism to break it up into more manageable pieces.
I’m starting out with a call for discussion (and my inner teacher would like to invite all of you quieter kids in the back row to contribute as well!): What have been your experiences with bilingualism? Should children learn two languages at the same time, or is it too confusing? Should adults try to learn second languages even if they don’t need to for practical circumstances?