Before we even had children Courtney and I discussed our values and how we wanted to raise any future children. I’ve been really lucky because we actually feel the same way about everything dealing with our future. We always knew we wanted to raise our children bilingual. I wrote before about how important it is for me to share my culture with my son. Part of that is making sure he can speak Spanish.
When I was growing up I struggled with my identity because I didn’t feel there was anybody else like me. Nobody ever believed I could speak Spanish because I spoke great English and they never heard me speak it. But who was I supposed to talk to? None of them spoke Spanish. I was put on the spot so many times I was often embarrassed to speak it. Dania Santana wrote on her blog “Being able to communicate in the language of your parents and grandparents creates a bond like no other to the culture and the lifestyle.” That is exactly what we want to instill in our children.
There are a few different techniques you can use to teach your child another language.
One parent one language: One parent speaks to the child in one language, and the other in another language.
Minority language at home: which means both parents speak the minority language in the home (in our case Spanish) then English in the community.
Is where you all speak a different language for different scenarios or contexts. You might speak a certain language so that everyone present can understand. Or as a family you speak a certain language on certain days of the week.
This is frequent changes between the languages at any given time.
Whichever method you decide on as a family just remember to stay consistent!
By default we do OPOL. Mainly because it’s what comes natural to us, and Courtney only speaks English. Since I am a stay at home mom it’s a bit easier for me to work with him. When I am with friends who speak Spanish I ask that they also speak Spanish to him. It’s also another good reason I love having play dates with the twins! They also have a bilingual household and it gives us a good time to expose him.
When Santana and I are at home I read to him in Spanish, talk to him, let him watch Spanish cartoons, and listen to Spanish music. I don’t really feel like I am doing any extra work because this is what I usually do. It also gives my husband a chance to work on his Spanish as well.
We recently started sending our son to a 100% Spanish immersion daycare. This is exciting and emotional for me! He will be hearing the language from someone other than myself, and getting a chance to interact with kids his age. It also gives me the opportunity to get to know other parents who are teaching their kids Spanish.
There are still people in this world who are surprised when they see a person of color speak Spanish. I know it’s something my children will have to face. In the end I feel like I am giving my son all the tools he needs to succeed in the future. Being able to pass on another language is a gift. He will be able to embrace his culture and not be ashamed of who he is.