Happy Friday, friends! To kick off our Family Fridays series for February, I’m excited to introduce you to a wonderful Spanish/English bilingual familia from California.
Today, Gladys, from The Mother Overload, gives us a glimpse into her life as mamá to Mia and how she and her husband are navigating the adventure of bilingual parenting. Gladys herself grew up bilingual: her parents emigrated to the United States from Mexico and, wanting to maintain their precious cultural heritage, chose to speak Spanish to their children. So, Gladys not only understands what it’s like to be a parent, but also a child, in a bilingual home. Today, she reminds those of us committed to raising our children in more than one language that “we’re all in this together.”
So, be encouraged, friends.
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?).
My folks were both born and raised in Mexico. Whey they arrived to the U.S., they did not know any English but managed to learn the language. Fast forward to when I was born, my padres agreed to speak to me in Spanish only. It wasn’t until 2nd grade that I actually learned to read and write in English. I was fortunate to be in a California school district that provided a kindergarten through 1st grade Spanish program with a complete transition to the English language. My husband also grew up in a bilingual (Spanish and English) home but became more dominant in English as he made his way through grammar school.
Now, as a bilingual mother, along with my bilingual husband, we’re raising our three-year old daughter, Mia, in both Spanish and English. Since I’m a stay-at-home mom, I speak to Mia in Spanish the majority of the time. When my husband gets home from work, he speaks to Mia in both languages. We want her to appreciate, communicate and be able to interact with people across cultures, generations and countries. For us, being bilingual is invaluable.
What prompted your decision to raise your children bilingually?
Growing up as bilingual children ourselves, we realized how valuable it has been for us not only professionally but also socially. There is a human factor to learning more than one language. We appreciate the gift our parents gave us more so now as adults. Having the ability to help another person in need that may not be able to communicate in either language is priceless. We want our children to experience the same. Also, I can’t imagine visiting our family in México and our kids not being able to communicate with them.
What positive growth or results have you witnessed in your children/family because of their multilingualism?
It’s amazing how much information a little one can actually absorb. Perhaps it’s due to them exploring their surroundings and figuring out how things work but nonetheless, we still get excited when Mia says, “Mamí …umm ¿cómo se dice eso?” She loves to learn so that has certainly made teaching her both languages easier.
What challenges have you faced or are you facing with language rearing and learning? How do you handle them?
Teaching our little one a minority language has not been an easy task. Some of the challenges we’re currently facing are speaking entirely in Spanish at home. My husband and I communicate in English so we have to keep reminding ourselves to speak in Spanish to one another. Also, although my husband understands and speaks both languages, he thinks in English. At times, he’ll butcher a Spanish word and I have to correct them both. Either way though, we’re both trying our absolute best to read, sing and talk to our little one in both languages. We’re all in this together!
Can you talk about the cultural aspect of bilingual parenting as it relates to your family?
We are all for teaching Mia our Mexican traditions as well as American traditions. Living in Southern California has facilitated doing just that. There are many cities nearby that dedicated days out of the calendar year to celebrate both cultures and we take Mia to them every chance we get.
My mom is also very big on keeping up with our Mexican traditions. She still celebrates the holidays with a posada and sets up a very elaborate nacimiento that takes over her entire living room.
Some of my most memorable childhood memories somehow involve our Mexican culture and that’s exactly what I want Mia to experience herself.
Share a memorable moment you and your family experienced with language learning, something that shed light or taught you a lesson about bilingual parenting.
I’ll never forget the day we went to a family get-together and Mia started talking up a storm to all the non-English speakers in the room. Everyone was amazed at how little she was and spoke a second language so well. It was so nice to get a nod from other parents. It’s the best feeling ever to know our time and effort is actually sinking in.
How do you involve your family, community, school and/or world at large in this bilingual adventure?
We are fortunate to have family nearby that speak Spanish. We love that our little one communicates to both her grandparents and bisabuelos more so in Spanish. Also, there’s a really neat community program we found and absolutely love. Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY) “is an evidenced-based program that works with families in the home to support parents in their critical role as their child’s first and most important teacher.” The program was created to provide parents with “a set of carefully developed curriculum, books and materials designed to strengthen their children’s cognitive skills, early literacy skills, social/emotional and physical development,” per HIPPYUSA.com. For us, the best part about HIPPY is that they offer the program in Spanish and we have seen Mia’s vocabulary grow drastically.
In addition to family and our community, we also listen to Spanish music and watch Disney movies/Disney Junior in Spanish. You can say we definitely use the Television audio options in our home to the fullest.
What advice or encouragement can you share with other families raising their children bi-/multi-lingually?
It’s not an easy task but if you put forth the extra time and effort in talking, singing and reading to them in both languages, they will definitely retain the information. I also think it’s important that we make it fun for them. We like having play dates with other bilingual families. Being around other children that speak Spanish has made Mia realize that it’s not just the adults that speak Español. She now thinks it’s pretty cool. Bilingual parents, we got this!
Freebie! Anything else come to your mind about the issue of bilingual/multilingual parenting?
I think the misconceptions are still lingering out there. Just a couple months ago a parent said to me, “we’re not bothering to teach them [our children] another language either than English as the only advantage we see is them getting a couple of bucks more when they enter the workforce.” Sadly, both parents are bilingual themselves but prefer not to teach their kids the minority language. Well, to each their own, right? But I think had they been privy to all the benefits research has proven time and time again they just might reconsider. I’ve read numerous studies on the subject and some of the benefits are truly astonishing.
If you’d like to find out more about our journey through bilingual parenting as well as some bilingual benefits and misconceptions, stop by my blog TheMotherOverload.com and read Our Journey Through Bilingual Parenting.
¡Mil gracias, Gladys, por compartir vuestra aventura con la educación bilingüe!
Are you a multilingual family interested in sharing your story here on the blog? Please drop me a line! I’d love to include your perspective in the Family Fridays series.
Interested in meeting other families? Click on the tab FAMILIES on the right side of the blog’s homepage.