(Photo via Susanne Nilsson, Flickr Creative Commons)
The end of March marks six months of blogging for me.
So, to celebrate Españolita’s half birthday, I thought I’d share what I’ve learned from each of the topics, or categories, listed on the homepage: culture, families, identity, interviews, and learning/research.
While this blog is a space in which I share my own family’s journey with bilingual parenting, and while my reflections below are from my own lived experience, I hope you, too, find encouragement, wherever you are in your adventure with bilingual parenting.
1. We aren’t alone –
(Photo via Lotus Carroll, Flickr CC)
In the six-month life of this blog, sixteen families from around the world have shared their journeys with bilingual parenting. They have opened up their homes, in a sense, and given us a peak into what it’s like, at different points along the way, to raise children with more than one language.
As I reread the Family Fridays Roundup post, I realized that we are not alone. While we may at times feel like the odd ones out, or find ourselves wishing we had like-minded community in our neighborhood, we are not alone. There are countless families around the globe dedicated to helping their children become world citizens through the gift of language.
And, we can’t, I repeat, can’t do this thing called bilingual parenting without a network of support. I spoke about it here in this interview and wrote about it here. We need our partners, and our extended families; we need our places of worship and those friends and relatives with whom we Skype weekly; we need the invaluable advice of those who have gone before us and those who we meet online. That is why I started the series Family Fridays: to connect with others and to find encouragement.
You know, honestly, I think I may be the one who has found the most encouragement and support from these sixteen families. Each week they remind me to continue seeking out community in my just-started journey with bilingual parenting.
2. Our children will follow their own unique language journey (The Many Faces of Bilingual) –
(Photo via Abe Kleinfeld, Flickr CC)
One of the running series here on the blog is entitled The Many Faces of Bilingual. It periodically features different multilingual individuals and their stories of living in more than one language. You may wonder why a blog on bilingual parenting interviews individuals, many of whom are not parents, asking them questions like, when did you learn each language? or, in what areas of your life do you use each one?
Well, because our children will each follow a different path in each language we teach them. Some may become passive bilinguals, while others completely balanced. Some may go through a period in which they reject one language while preferring the other. Some may forget one for a while, only to one day pick it up again.
There isn’t one type of bilingual, just like there isn’t just one type of person. And, that’s okay.
No, that’s more than okay. That’s to be celebrated!
3. Language as identity –
(Photo via Shawn Econo, Flickr CC)
“To speak a language is to take on a world, a culture.” (Frantz Fanon)
Bilingual parenting isn’t just about teaching multiple languages to our children. Nor is it about teaching them one culture through two languages (one reason why, when possible, I prefer original versions to translated books for children).
Language is inextricably linked to culture, who we are. So, in a sense, I am what I speak. For me, that means that I am not just teaching my daughter how to speak Spanish, but I am teaching her about Spain, its ways, its traditions, its culture. My husband and I are giving her two ways to speak, as well as two ways to view the world.
4. Are we learning with our children? –
(Photo via Mark Brannan, Flickr CC)
In his book Creciendo Juntos (“Growing Together”), Spanish pediatrician Dr. Carlos González reminds families that the day a baby is born also marks the day parents are born. It is the beginning of a learning adventure for both child and parent(s). Just as my husband, D., and I are learning as we go, learning how to transition to solid food and how to handle tantrums, we are learning how to parent in two languages. For me, specifically, raising E. in my non-native language of Spanish, has meant increasing my own input in Spanish. If bebé is learning then so is mamá!
How can we expect our children to want to learn the minority/heritage language if we as parents aren’t modeling for them our own desire to learn and grow? How can we show them that learning is a life-long endeavor?
5. Are we being intentional? (Research) –
(Photo via Stephan Hochhaus, Flickr CC)
For many, the question of whether or not to raise their children in more than one language didn’t need a second thought; it came naturally: mom speaks one language, dad the other, so baby will speak two. But, as Jane from this Family Fridays interview reminds us, we need to educate ourselves about bilingualism. Do we have a plan in place, a language goal, for our children? Have we explained to our friends and extended family what it means to raise our children in more than one language? And, are we prepared to answer – in love, of course – questions and address misconceptions that neighbors might have about children and language development?
In short, have we done our research? Are we being intentional parents?
I want to take this opportunity to thank you for following me and my family on our language journey. Thank you for stopping by the blog. And, thank you for the comments, support, questions, and encouragement you have provided along the way. I can’t do this alone!