¡Feliz Viernes a todos! Por fin ha llegado el fin de semana y con él, Family Fridays!
This Friday marks the 5th installment of Family Fridays, a series here on the blog in which I spotlight a different bilingual family from around the globe. This week we’ll meet a family raising their children in both Spanish and English. What I think is so cool about this family is that they have lived literally all around the world: from Alaska to Turkey to Japan! I think you’ll find they offer a unique perspective on bilingualism and multiculturalism.
Give a brief snapshot of your family’s language dynamics and your family’s language policy (what language(s) do you speak, who speaks what with whom?).
We use two languages in our family: English and Spanish. My husband and I speak both of them interchangeably throughout the day to communicate with each other and with our kids. However, as time went by, we ended up using English more as our primary language.
What prompted your decision to raise your children bi-/multi-lingually?
We think it is important for our kids to be bilingual because we want them to have the privilege to know and enjoy, not only two different languages, but also, two very unlike cultures and ways to do life. It is also essential for us that our children have a very close relationship with their family members from both countries.
What positive growth or results have you witnessed in your children/family because of their multilingualism?
Raising our kids with influences from two different cultures has given them a love for people from diverse nationalities, has helped them to adapt better to changes, and has increased their curiosity about how people relate to each other. It has also made them more sociable and flexible.
What challenges have you faced or are you facing with language rearing and learning? How do you handle them?
When my husband and I were dating, we always related to each other in Spanish. After getting married and moving to live in the States, we decided to change and communicate in English to help me improve my English skills so I could feel confident in my abilities at work. When our son was little, we talked a lot of Spanish to him, but as my proficiency to speak English got higher, and most of the people we related to were English- speakers, we found ourselves communicating in English much more often that what we intended to. As a result of this, our kids understand a great deal of Spanish but communicate in this language in a poor way. Our course of action in the last few months has been, shifting once more to Spanish in the home, even though we find is much harder now.
How do you involve your family, community, school and/or world at large in this bi-/multilingual adventure?
We Skype with both families at a regular basis. We also relate with friends that speak both languages. We use learning tools such a books, DVDs, music, Ipad programs, etc. in both languages. As a military family, we have lived in different countries, so this has also give us the opportunity to talked to our kids a lot about cultural differences.
What advice or encouragement can you share with other families raising their children bi-/multi-lingually?
Our advice would be consistency, consistency, and consistency. Find the system that works for your family and stick to it! We feel if we had been more constant in our objective, our kids would have been bilingual by now. On the other hand, we also would like to say that any effort put into being bilingual is not in vain. Life is not perfect. Our intentions can be on point yet difficulties arise. It is never too late to keep working at it!