How We are Raising Our Daughter to Be Bilingual

First, let me start off with a little about me and my husband. I speak English with a dash of Spanglish, while my husband born and raised in Mexico, speaks both English and Spanish fluently. Before we even began trying to grow our family, we knew that we wanted any children we had to be able to speak both languages.


There are so many benefits to raising children to be bilingual. There are various studies that demonstrate the positive effects speaking multiple languages has on brain development and cognitive processes. In addition, it open opportunities, it is a valuable asset in employment, and it allows a person to connect with different people and cultures.


Speaking as a person who only speaks one language, I am forever envious of those who can so fluently express themselves as I am often left sitting at the table confused and silent when I am unable to keep up with the rapid Spanish conversation. I am continuously trying to overcome this by practicing my Spanish and trying to learn more at the same time.


I have spoken with monolingual adults who have bilingual parents and they have so much regret that they aren’t able to speak their parents’ language of origin. Most children don’t understand the value of being bilingual and it is something they will really come to appreciate when they are older. That being said, you want to make learning another language part of the daily routine, but you also want to make it fun so that your child actively engages with the second language.


Now, I know when both parents are bilingual, some will take the approach of only speaking that second language in the household and will let the child learn English when he or she goes to school. This is definitely one approach and will work for some.


But what do you do when only one of the parents is bilingual? These are the ways that we are implementing Spanish into our daughter’s life currently and will continue to do so as she grows older.


1. My husband is attempting to speak to her primarily in Spanish throughout the day. Not an easy task as prior to her birth we were speaking 95% in English in our house. Sometimes he needs gentle reminders to speak in Spanish. My hope is that the increase in Spanish speaking at home will also help to improve my speaking skills!


2. My husband reads to her books in Spanish. There are so many bilingual children’s books available now. What I like most about them is that many of them are written in both, English and Spanish. This means my husband and I can read the same book to her in two different languages. I would recommend this to most families who want to incorporate Spanish or any other language into their children’s lives. I think this is helpful whether or not the parents speak the second language. My personal favorite books I have found so far are from a company called Lil Libros. The books are about real people and places in the Latin community so not only is your child learning another language, but he or she is also learning about other cultures. Click here if you want to check them out! Lil' Libros (lillibros.com)


3. We listen to music in Spanish. Now, this is a fun one because there is so much great Spanish music out there. We are not only playing children’s Spanish music but also music from famous Spanish singers such as Selena or Vincente Fernandez. My husband or I sing along to the music so that our daughter can hear the words. Adding music to your routine is a great multisensory learning experience


4. Travel and Cultural Immersion- The best way to work on language skills and understand another culture is to actually immerse yourself in that culture. Our plan is to go visit my husband’s family in Mexico yearly. We have been avoiding airplanes since COVID, but are planning, hopefully in the fall to make a trip down there so that our daughter can meet the rest of her family. Spending time in another country and embracing its culture is a great way to learn and experience


5. Bilingual Preschool – When she begins preschool our goal is to get her into a bilingual English/Spanish preschool. In my area I have seen some preschools that offer this. It seems that Spanish and Mandarin are two big languages being offered in my local preschools, however where I am located, I imagine it might be difficult to find other languages offered. We are also considering enrolling her into an afterschool Spanish program as she grows older so that she can continue to learn and focus more on grammar.


Questions:

  1. What tips/tricks are you using to help your child with learning another language?

  2. How important do you think being bilingual or multilingual is?

  3. Do you enjoy learning about other cultures?



Photo by Mikhail Nilov from Pexels

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