(Photo via Carissa Rogers, Flickr CC)
Happy Friday, amig@s!
Fridays here on the blog are dedicated to a long-running series called Family Fridays: each week I highlight a different multilingual family from around the globe and/or a bilingual member of our world whose work influences and supports the work we bilingual parents are doing in the home. If you’d like to meet previous families and community members, please click on the link FAMILIES to the right of the blog.
So, today’s family is my family. I realized the other day that it’s been almost nine months since I began the blog and formally introduced my family to you all. In that time many new people have started following the blog (THANK YOU!), and so I thought it would be fitting to give you an update of where our family is on our bilingual parenting journey. If you’d like to read my first interview, you can do so here.
I hope you find encouragement today, friends. And, happy weekend!
A brief snapshot of our family’s language dynamics and our family’s language policy.
My husband, D., and I are raising our 17-month old daughter, E., in Spanish and English. Each multilingual family has their own language plan, and the one that we have chosen to use is called the heritage language at home and majority language outside the home. This means that among the three of use we speak exclusively in Spanish, my husband’s native language and my second. You can read more about our decision here, as well as my journey learning the “language of mothering” here.
Our language plan also implies that we speak to each other in Spanish in public, as well. That includes when we’re with non-Spanish-speaking friends and neighbors. So, basically, it all boils down to our family mode of communication is Spanish estemos donde estemos y estemos con quien estemos.
What prompted our decision to raise our daughter bilingually?
It was both a natural flow from married life without children to life with a child, as well as an intentional, thought-out decision. D. and I met in Spain and have always spoken to each other in Spanish, so using that language with our daughter felt natural (well, to an extent for me, since I’m not native). Additionally, we believe that being bilingual is a twenty-first century skill that will open professional and personal doors for our daughter when she grows up.
What positive growth have we witnessed in our family because of our bilingualism?
First, my Spanish has improved! Although I considered myself bilingual prior to becoming a mother, there were subjects in Spanish, like baby sleep and feeding, and birth and parenting styles, that I had had to learn. So, my choice to use Spanish with E. has pushed me to increase my own input in the language in order to provide her with the input she needs. Second, our extended family in Spain have expressed on several occasions how grateful and happy they are knowing that, despite the thousands of miles of distance between us, their little E. is learning their language.
What challenges have we faced with language rearing and learning? How do we handle them?
For now, my biggest challenge is mothering in my non-native language. You can read more about it here, in our family’s first interview on the blog. I am also finding it challenging to remain consistent in my use of Spanish with E. in public. For example, if she pushes another child down at the playground in front of the parent, my temptation is to reprimand and/or redirect E. in English. But, if I’m honest with myself, the true reason why I’m tempted to revert to English isn’t because I don’t have the vocabulary to say what I need to say, but because I want to save face in front of my own peer group and ensure they know that I know what my daughter did was not okay. But, to remedy that, what I do is first speak to E. in Spanish, then address the other child and her parent in English.
The cultural aspect of bilingual parenting as it relates to our family.
In my first interview, I cite a funny cross-cultural example. Check it out here!
I would add that our choice to raise E. bilingually has forced D. and me to be thoughtful and intentional in our inclusion of Spanish traditions and holidays in our home. You can read about how this played out during Christmas here. We celebrated El Día de Reyes (Epiphany, January 6), I have also written posts on the importance of daily walks (dar un paseo) in our life, a special, almost sacred, tradition in Spain.
A memorable moment our family experienced with language learning, something that shed light or taught us a lesson about bilingual parenting.
I have written about the habits I’m learning from the Spanish and that I’m incorporating into my parenting. Please check out this previous post (one of my favorites) on what those habits are. Essentially, multilingual parenting is all about a willingness to be open to learn and grown alongside your children.
How do we involve our family, community, school and/or world in this bilingual adventure?
At this stage in our bilingual parenting adventure, D. and I make an intentional effort to spend time with native Spanish-speaking friends on a weekly basis. For example, since I stay home with E. during the week, I organize Spanish-only playdates with other moms and children. This is a priority to us because it exposes to E. to a variety of Spanish speakers, besides just her parents.
Also, we are currently planning a month-long trip to Spain in the fall. We’re so excited, not only because we’ll get to see friends and extended family, but because E. will be completely immersed in the Spanish culture for the first time.
What advice or encouragement can you share with other families raising their children bi-/multi-lingually?
Of all the helpful advice that I’ve received in my short time as a parent, the most helpful to me and what I want to pass on to you, my readers, is that you seek out a community of support. We cannot do this alone! Community can take on so many different forms: on-line forums or Facebook groups, bilingual story times at your local library, daily or weekly Skype sessions with family in the target language, multilingual parenting books, and multilingual blogs, just to name a few. Many of us deep in the trenches of multilingual parenting are experiencing challenges right now: reach out and ask for help. Others are marveling at the growth and progress our children have made in the minority language(s): share it with others and be an encouragement to them! We need each other.
Thank you for following along with my family as we navigate through the adventures of bilingual parenting ¡sobre la marcha! Are you interested in sharing your family’s story with us here on the blog? Please contact me!