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Canada is a mosaic of languages and cultures. Half the residents in Toronto alone cited a mother tongue other than English or French, according to a 2011 census. In fact, Statistics Canada identified 160 different mother tongues among Greater Toronto Area (GTA) inhabitants and 200 home languages across the country.

Being an immigrant parent, I am always trying to strike the right balance when it comes to language and culture. While I believe in the importance of learning about one’s heritage, when and what to pass on to my children is still a work in progress.

My daughter’s experience with learning a second language has been a positive one so far. Her grasp of the Spanish language at the mere age of three puts her light-years ahead of me when I tried learning English as a teen. This is partly because introducing a child to a second language is far easier when they are young. Their brains are like sponges, and learning seems effortless and fun.

Learning a second language can also bring a new depth of understanding to one’s native tongue and help a person adapt to different cultural contexts. As well, knowing multiple languages can help develop cultural sensitivity and awareness.

Half the residents in Toronto alone cited a mother tongue other than English or French, according to a 2011 census.

Nowadays, people speak many languages at home and, more than ever before, younger generations are embracing their heritage and culture. Diversity and cultural differences are also being celebrated in schools, and it’s far easier than it used to be to merge old customs with new, and to embrace old languages and new ones.

It’s important to encourage your children to immerse themselves in learning English as a second language when you move to Canada; however, don’t do away with your cultural touchstones and festivities. Remind kids of the significance of traditions to their culture and heritage, and encourage them to reach out to other children of similar cultures and faiths. This will help them to find a common ground between old and new, and to share customs with their family and their peers.

Canada is a country that allows families to hold on to their cultural identities while embracing new traditions and languages. This is why so many families are able to build fulfilling new lives here.

Tell us how you keep your cultural traditions alive as you adapt to your new life in Canada.

Natalia Diaz

Natalia DiazOwlkids Contributing Editor Natalia Diaz was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and writes about education and family issues. She lives in Markham, Ontario, with her family.