Raising Bilingual Children

Half of our family is bilingual and one of my struggles or should I say, one of the things I want to improve is our son's language development to speak Spanish. Mom included. My husband was born in Mexico City and has a ton of family that live there and come visit us.This is always such a fun experience for us. Because the culture is unique and important to our family, it's just two of the reasons why I think it's just as important as the English language. 

This Summer our young family from Mexico City who speak predominantly Spanish came to visit. I personally experienced some language barriers, however, the little I know from growing up in the Mexican culture, it went a long way. My son rather, was able to communicate Spanish commands through body language but not effectively speak the language.

So my new goal is to try to stay on track with teaching and learning more Spanish myself and especially to my children. This is extremely important especially once the rebellion stage hits and children refuse to use their minority language. 

"Bilingualism experts agree that one of the most important tasks for parents raising a child with two languages is to create a perceived need to the minority language. In other words, your kid HAS to feel there are some circumstances in which he NEEDS his minority language to communicate." 

How do we do this? Check out some tips I've learned and gathered along the way:

1. Invite your Spanish-speaking family/friends to stay with you: As you know we had some of our family visiting us last month from Mexico. This gave my son the opportunity to experience first hand how important it is for them to speak Spanish to communicate with their aunt, uncle and along with his grandparents.

2. Show them you're proud of speaking Spanish and your Hispanic culture: If your children see you take pride in your language and your culture, they will follow suit. I see this happen before my very own eyes with my husband and sister n' law with English, being Spanish as their first language. They are both very proud to be from Mexico City and be American citizens at the same time. 

3. Give your friends & your kids' friends a taste of your heritage: Not only will you show your kids how proud you are of your culture (tip #2), but it could also be a lot of fun. Dia de los Muertos, which is almost upon us, is a great time to do this. Also posadas are an important part of Mexican Christmas celebrations. These celebrations commemorate Mary and Joseph's cold and difficult journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem in search of shelter. "Posada" in Spanish, simply means lodging or shelter. Nowadays, the posada has evolved into a religious and social celebration, paying a festive homage to the journey. As a family, we celebrate a posada when Vincent was born during the month of December. We served traditional food, and a pinata and Mexican candy from Mexico. We invited our friends to celebrate the tradition with us. I think we might continue the tradition for the years to come. Again, if your children see that you're proud of your heritage, they will be too. 

4. Expose your children to Spanish and their Latino culture first-hand: Traveling to a country where the Spanish is spoken is probably one of the best ways to create a perceived need. Although both my husband's and my family is dispersed in different Latin and European countries, it does give us the opportunity to go visit them, allowing our son and daughter on the way to be immersed in the language while spending time with family as we did this Summer. Our plan is to visit family in Oaxaca, Mexico next Summer!


G MA said...

It has been my experience that children educated under a bilingual-bi cultural environment do embrace the diversity quite naturally.
Like explorers.
For those children that have this type of environment, family that comes visit and barely speaks English, the spark to become bilingual is right at the tip of their tongue -sort of speaking-.
Vincent's dad became 100% bilingual at 4 years old. No effort involved.
I am so glad his parents are offering Vincent the chance to embrace diversity as this will open up, not only the ability to speak more than one language, but
the openness to experience more wonders in his life.

sara.odom said...

Thank you for your feedback G MA!
Absolutely, opportunities for bilingualism will be everywhere and so naturally. Hugs