¡Feliz viernes, amig@s! Welcome back to another installment of Family Fridays here on the blog. If this is your first time stopping by, I want to extend an extra hearty welcome. This is a weekly series in which I spotlight a different multilingual family and their adventures in bilingual parenting.
Today, yo tengo el gran privilegio de introduce you all to fellow bilingual blogger Malu and her family. She and her husband are raising their two beautiful boys in Spanish and English. You can read about her adventures in bilingual parenting on her blog at Bilingual Eyes Blog. Thank you, Malu, for the encouraging words you have to share with us today.
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?).
I was born in Mexico but raised in the states. Growing up, my family dynamic was, as with many families today, to keep the dominant language (English) out of the home and have Spanish be our primary language. My family did not want us to forget our native tongue, culture and traditions. I am very thankful for that.
I fell in love with an American that speaks no Spanish. Although he has tried to learn and has picked up some words, English will always be the dominant language in our house. When we had kids, we agreed that we would both speak English to them, but I would take care of teaching Spanish. This has turned out to be a bit more challenging that I expected as I am not a teacher and I do tend to lean more towards English. Since that is the language around us, it has proved to be difficult to have them meet other children who speak Spanish when we do not have people close to us to share the language with. I started my blog as a hope to find new ways to show them how beautiful Spanish and language in general really is.
What prompted your decision to raise your children bilingually?
I wanted them to learn about my history, my culture and my traditions. Plus, I have always thought that being bilingual was pretty cool. I mean you can talk to twice as many people as someone who only speaks one language, right? At least that’s how I looked at it before.
What positive growth or results have you witnessed in your children/family because of their bilingualism?
My children are finally reaching the age where they see and understand that others are speaking Spanish. They now know it’s not just something mama made up. They seem to want to have me read them books in Spanish more, they love songs in Spanish and (because we are integrating a world view in our learnings thanks to MKB) I feel they are enjoying these same things in other languages as well. Music is the main motivator in our family.
What challenges have you faced or are you facing with language rearing and learning? How do you handle them?
As I stated before, I am not a teacher. My challenge is finding a way to make learning fun for toddlers. I struggle with wanting to focus too much on the words and pronunciation. The best way for me to handle this is to find as many blogs out there and see what has worked for teachers and parents who have successfully taught young children. That and to try to remember that they are little, and be patient with them.
Can you talk about the cultural aspect of bi-/multilingual parenting as it relates to your family?
I love the cultural aspect of bilingual and even multilingual parenting. I feel that too many children do not get to see what the world has to offer if they do not have the ability to actually travel around the world. Showing my kids traditions, music and even what kids in other parts of the world wear shows them how much there is out there for us to learn from others. They love when I pull out a map and show them how far some of these lands are. They especially love when they get to hear about other kids having fun. Allowing them access to the outside world is probably the best way for them to respect and love other traditions they may not ever witness. I want them to respect all cultures, not just their own.
Share a memorable moment you and your family experienced with language learning, something that shed light or taught you a lesson about bilingual parenting.
On our recent trip to Mexico, my four year old sang a song I have sang to him since he was born in Spanish in front of my whole family. He even interrupted one of my uncles who was singing a different version of the song to correct him. I thought that was beautiful.
Also, my own uncles who may or may not be so happy with how I am raising my kids, did say that the boys’ pronunciations of the words they did say were great. No accent! I know that’s silly, but it is a big deal for my family. I must be doing something right.
How do you involve your family, community, school and/or world at large in this bilingual adventure?
My family and I still have the same traditions that we have in Mexico. We celebrate the same holidays and eat the same foods. Of course, the music and games are fun to get silly with. I think our trip to Mexico has opened their eyes a bit and I’m hoping to keep running with that for a while. They were excited to see a whole other world they had only heard of.
I am always searching for events in our community that focus on culture to involve them with. I can’t wait until they are a bit older so they can stay up later for some of the fun celebrations.
What advice or encouragement can you share with other families raising their children bilingually?
My advice would be to never give up and go at your own pace. I’ve been told too many times that I am doing this all wrong. That I should only speak to them in Spanish if I want them to learn Spanish. That they don’t need to learn it now, they will learn it if they want to later. That I need to find someone to actually teach them. If you are like me and not following a manual, you may get it from all sides. All I can say is don’t get discouraged. They will love your language because you do…it may just take them a little longer than other families to learn both. I say, as long as they learn it and love it, what’s the rush? They will talk to you in the language they chose when they are ready. The knowledge will already be there because of you.
Freebie! Anything else come to your mind about the issue of bilingual parenting?
Being bilingual is wonderful and I imagine being multilingual is amazing. Someday maybe, my family and I will try to pick up a third language. Whatever your goals are know that the fact that you are trying is one step further than if you were not. Even if you do not know a second or third language, my idea behind being bicultural and multicultural is learning about the world around you. The more we know about the people in the world and what they believe in, the more we can welcome them into our lives. My view of a multicultural world is a world where no one is afraid to share their traditions and all are accepted and respected as one. That’s what I see through my Bilingual Eyes.
¡Muchísimas gracias, Malu, for sharing your family’s journey in bilingual parenting!
Would you like to share your family’s adventure with bilingualism here on the blog? Please contact me! I’d love to share your story.