¡Feliz viernes, amiga@s! We took a little break from Family Fridays, but I’m back again, and very excited, to introduce you to fellow blogger and bilingual mamá, Cristina. Cristina lives with her husband and two children on the southeastern coast of Spain. I “met” Cristina through her incredible blog, Montessori en Casa, where she writes – in both Spanish and English – about how to raise children at home following the Montessori method. Like me, she is raising her children in her non-native language, and today she shares with us how she and her husband navigate through the fun and crazy adventure of bilingual parenting.
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 live in Spain and our mother language is Spanish, we have a 4 year-old (Alejandro) and a 8 month-old (Sara). We practice the “minority language at home” approach, so we speak English at home and Spanish outside, and we are lucky enough to live in an area with an important community of British expats, what gives us the chance to practice English also outside sometimes.
Alejandro attends a bilingual preschool, and that is really helpful too, so I guess things will be a bit harder when he goes to elementary school, which unfortunately won’t be bilingual.
What prompted your decision to raise your children bilingually?
My husband and I are not totally bilingual, but we are fluent in English and we have found it to be very helpful and enriching in our lives, so long before having kids we decided we wanted to provide them with a bilingual environment as much as we could.
What positive growth or results have you witnessed in your children/family because of their multilingualism?
Our kids are still very young but we already enjoy reading books in English, watching movies or documentaries in the original version with Alejandro, and we love to see how he can communicate in both languages at such a young age. We love to travel abroad, so we hope on our upcoming trips that we’ll start to see how he interacts with natives and realizes how cool it is to be able to understand and be understood when you travel to another country.
What challenges have you faced or are you facing with language rearing and learning? How do you handle them?
For us we have to make an effort to speak English, as it is our second language, and sometimes it’s hard not to give up and just speak Spanish when we are tired after a hard day, but the effort really pays off!
Can you talk about the cultural aspect of bilingual parenting as it relates to your family?
We like to show our kids about different cultures around the world, and being able to speak English is a great tool for that. For example, last year we participated in a culture swap with families from other countries and we always communicated with them in English, we got letters from them written in English, and it was an opportunity to show Alejandro that talking different languages gives you the chance to know people from around the world.
Share a memorable moment you and your family experienced with language learning, something that shed light or taught you a lesson about bilingual parenting.
When I was pregnant with Sara, during the first months I felt really bad with morning sickness, and it was very hard for me to speak English at home, so I gave up and for a couple of months I spoke Spanish at home. When I felt better and I started speaking English again, Alejandro would tell me in Spanish “No, mum, you talk to me in Spanish”, and he refused to speak English with me for a while… He feels more comfortable in Spanish so I could see his point, and it took me a few months to recover the “status quo”, so I learnt a valuable lesson: consistency is crucial!
How do you involve your family, community, school and/or world at large in this bilingual adventure?
Our parents don’t speak English so there’s not much to do on that front, but they know what we do and they are very encouraging.
Regarding our community, as I said, we live in an area where there are many people who speak native English, and that means we can meet some friends, join clubs or activities where the language used is English.
I also like to write sometimes on my blog about how we raise our kids bilingually, so I can share our experience and meet other people in the same situation.
What advice or encouragement can you share with other families raising their children bi-/multi-lingually?
I think giving your kids the opportunity to learn more than one language from birth is a great gift for them because it’s a time-sensitive learning, and if they want to start learning languages when they are older it will be much harder for them.
Freebie! Anything else come to your mind about the issue of bilingual/multilingual parenting?
This world is becoming more global everyday, so being able to communicate in more than one language opens many doors, for learning, working, traveling… I want my kids to be able to open those doors!
Muchas gracias a Cristina for sharing her family’s journey in bilingual parenting!
Don’t forget to check out her awesome blog on Montessori parenting, which she writes in both English & Spanish.
Would you like to share your family’s story? I’d love to spotlight you here on the blog! Please contact me.