Conlangs and children

Just read @fiatlingua’s post on conlangs and kids. Topics, in list form in part because I’ve been thinking about how a robot conlang might work and I think robots would talk in lists, in monotone:

Teaching conlangs to children by the parent speaking it (i.e. Klingon, Esperanto, Living Latin, Revived Cornish which isn’t really a conlang, I know). The challenges are exactly the same as raising your child bilingual French-English in DC– tricky to make the kid feel that he has a community of peers with that language. Check amazon for a whole mini-genre on how to do this. On facebook I’ve seen reports of one conlang who is teaching her conlang to her children. I won’t invest the time into debunking all the myths about raising bilingual children– it isn’t force, it isn’t child abuse, it doesn’t preclude a high level of skill in the host communities lingua franca (ie. English)– check out the books on amazon.
Kids learning conlangs (as a subject of study like algebra, and not as a language spoken at home). Why not? It’s about as financially useful as teaching your kid piano. The ability to organize study time and memorize long lists of words is applicable to careers like computer programming.
Kids creating conlangs. Twins have been known to spontaneously create new languages. Deaf children have been known to spontaneously create sign language even when not given access to other deaf children or signing adults (not a good strategy for creating a con sign language– the impoverished intellectual environment will risk causing other problems) Conlanging as a hobby is disproportionately young– creating a language to any level of completion is time consuming and the young have free time that adults don’t.
Parent-child collaborative conlanging. Why not? Involved parents do all sorts of things with their kids.
Kids consuming art with conlangs in it. Karen Travis’s Mandalorean language created for Boba Fett comes to mind. Mandalorean is just an English relex with a cool font. I’m of the opinion that relexes are okay if the audience isn’t expected to have the time, interested, etc to learn a “language” any further from their mother tongue than a relex.

Red Herrings
I’ve recently been reading a bunch of parenting books, so there are a few universal red herrings. They follow the pattern of this joke: “When my neighbor loses his job, it is a recession. When I lose a job, it is a depression” When you raise your children more strictly then I do, you are an authoritarian child abuser and your children probably cower in the corner sniveling in fear of you. When you raise your children less strictly than I do, you are an absentee parent and your children probably sit in a dark corner, neglected, with only their feces to play with. If I had a penny for every time I read/said/heard, “I think parenting practice X is a good idea.” “No! You can’t *force* your children to do X!” then I’d have to make a trip to coinstar. I think the real problem is that working parents are generally so busy that they lack the time to do any parenting, so they make themselves feel good about it by thinking, well at least I’m not a tyrannical helicopter parent.

Children up to the age of teenagers and sometimes a bit after look to their parents for ideas models for all sorts of things including hobbies. So why not use your linguistics hobbies as yet another parent/child activity?

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2 Responses to Conlangs and children

  1. Don says:

    Excellent post! I especially like the piano-playing analogy. I think you lay out a very nice case — in list form :-) — of many reason as to the “why not” for kids and conlanging.
    Also, I have seen way more than enough tweets and blog posts from people expressing shock and exasperation at “a parent who raised his child to speak Klingon.” The story of d’Armond Speers and his son is way more nuanced than that soundbite, and he always says that when it stopped being fun for his son they just stopped speaking Klingon. And sharing fun time with your kids seems to be one of the main points of good parenting, conlanging or not.

  2. Koppa Dasao says:

    When it comes to having fun, anything goes until somebody gets hurt.