Our departure to Madagascar is drawing nearer. For years we have been preparing ourselves, but how?
The language amongst missionaries and within most missionary organisations is English. That is one of the reasons why we have decided to raise our children bilingually from an early age. From about 3 years of age – when they have an age appropriate fluency in Dutch – Katja speaks as much English to and with them as possible. After having learned to read and write Dutch at beginner’s level, we start teaching them the same in English. Sofar this approach works for our family: our children are capable of conversing in 2 languages and are confident about their abilities. On the mission field they will be able to communicate with other missionaries and their children from the start.
Compared to thirty years ago, when we were in primary education, the world seems to have ‘shrunk’! The world comes closer in the books we read, the television programmes we see and even through people living around us who have come from a different culture.
Since we will be living in a vastly different culture than our own, we read and talk a lot about the continents, climates, cultures and religions in the world. We hope to get a better understanding of what culture is and how important it is in everyday life. We read books on Madagascar in particular, so we will have some idea in advance of what we might experience and see.
Children of missionaries generally have more identity problems than their peers who have no cross-cultural experience. It is often heard that the live between 2 or more cultures and have difficulty identifying any which country as home. Ties with the country of origin can be weaker than the ties with the country they, as a familly, have served in.
For these reasons we emphasize our own cultural identity as well. Through history lessons, typical Dutch celebrations and family traditions we enforce our identity as a familly, Christians, Dutch and Europeans. We trust this will enable us to move and feel freely in both our own and our host cultures.