Final Thoughts from our Trip to España

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We made it back to the other side of “El Charco” just a few days ago. It’s taking us a bit longer to break free from the jet lag and adjust to the six-hour time difference (i.e., days starting at 4am).

Despite the cansancio and despite D.’s and my sadness at no longer having total access to jamón serrano, we’re still running high on fond memories of our month-long trip to Spain.

There’s so much to say, so many thoughts, that I thought I’d just put them all down together, potpourri style, in one blog post. Continue reading

“We hope we aren’t confusing her.” {Letter from a reader – part 2}

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(Photo courtesy of urbanworkbench, Flickr CC)

The first day of September?! Where did summer go??

I refuse to welcome Autumn, even though today marks the first day back to school for children in our city. Speaking of school, a reader wrote me a letter a few days ago, asking advice about a situation related to a change in her daughter’s language development due to starting a new school. Below you’ll find her letter and my advice.

Be encouraged, friends. Continue reading

Letter from a reader: Transitioning to school & the minority language

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Hello, amig@s!

I apologize for the weeklong radio silence here on the blog. Can I be honest with you? I needed a break from writing. Blame it on the heat (or, the humidity here on the East Coast), the long days, or my “no-para-quieta toddler.” Anyway, the break did me good, and I’m back!

Today, I’d like to share with you a short letter I received from a mother raising her daughter in two languages. She expresses a concern I’m sure most, if not all of us, have experienced (or, will experience) at some point: what will happen to the minority language once my child begins school?

Although this is not an immediate concern for my husband and I, it is an issue we have discussed several times. So, below you will find my response (expanded for today’s blog post). I am not an expert on this topic, but do share advice that I have learned from other more experienced parents, as well as from research into language development.

Be encouraged, friends, and please share your own thoughts, too, if there is something I’ve missed!

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Dear Españolita,

“I have a soon to be 2 year old little one, who will start an (English Speaking) toddler school very soon. My husband and I are bilingual (Spanish/English) speakers. We have raised our daughter to know/speak Spanish only. She throughly understands and speaks it so well. We have a fear now….a fear that she will lose interest in speaking Spanish or prefer to speak English only. Since she will be attending an all English school, are there any ideas you would suggest we practice?”

Hi!

From what we know through research (Welsh/English, Irish/English, Bilingualism and Children/Parents) and experience, the language of the majority culture and a child’s schooling (in your case, English) has a huge impact on the minority’s language, Spanish in this case. So, to continue to support and encourage your child’s use of Spanish I recommend the following:

  1. Remain an informed parent:

What does the research in bilingualism say?  What are the best ways to maintain your family’s language policy? How can parents best support their child’s dual language development? Do you need a good book on the topic? Check out some of my reviews here and here and here on the blog. Also, the resources page has a list of blogs and websites that I have found helpful in my bilingual parenting journey.

  1.  Remain consistent with your own language use:

This is hard, really hard. When the language we parents speak to our children is not the majority language, it’s challenging to remain consistent, especially in public. When we parent in a language that isn’t our native tongue, it can be difficult to refrain from switching to our first language, especially when we’re angry, tired, or sad. I get it. I feel it every day!

Fortunately, we’re working toward a worthy goal: that our children grow up bilingual. What an awesome gift we are giving them for the future. This encourages me to take it one day at time, to remain consistent with my Spanish, even when I’m mentally tired.

  1. Provide your child with opportunities to use the language with other speakers:

On his blog about bilinguals, researcher Dr. François Grosjean states:

“Older bilingual children and adolescents who become conscious of which language their peers speak may well reject a language (usually the home language) so as not to be different from them. An Arabic-English bilingual once wrote to me that as an adolescent he pretended he did not know Arabic. He continued: ‘I did this because I wanted very badly not to be different from the rest of my friends.'”

From this example above, it’s important to remember two points: 1) all bilingual children will, at some point in their language journey, hesitate or refuse to speak the minority language; it’s normal 2) parents can encourage their children to use the language by providing them with opportunities to use it with multiple speakers, particularly peers of the same age.

That is why I encourage parents to consider sending their children to bilingual schools, if they have the opportunity. Or, consider creating a neighborhood play group in the minority language (that’s what I’ve done).

  1.  Remain in regular contact with extended family:

Skype and FaceTime are amazing inventions! I make it a priority to video call family in Spain a few times each week. Also, consider saving your money for visits to the home country, instead of purchasing more toys.

I hope this has been helpful. Best of luck to you!

Hola, I’m Españolita, and this is nuestra familia (Family Fridays)

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(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! Continue reading

Why I’m teaching my daughter sign language

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(Photo courtesy of Weird Beard, Flickr CC)

No, it’s not because I’m an overachiever, although my mom jokes that I am. Or, because I’ve suddenly found myself with hours of free time, which I haven’t.

But, because it’s working! It’s working for all of the reasons that all of those fancy toddler experts said it would work. Continue reading

A conversation with bilingual children’s author Delia Berlin (Family Fridays)

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(Photo via Carissa Rogers, Flickr CC)

¡Feliz viernes, amig@s!

Welcome back for another edition of our Family Fridays series here on the blog. This series features multilingual families from all over the globe, as well as other important friends (authors, singers, just to name a few) in the greater community who help and encourage us parents along the way. You can check out past installments in this series by clicking on the category FAMILIES on the right.

Today, I’m honored to introduce you to bilingual mother, grandmother, and author, Delia Berlin. Originally from Argentina, Delia has made the United States her home for the past forty years. My conversation with her today includes her personal journey with bilingualism, the role language plays in her family’s life, and her work as author of several bilingual books for children.

Be encouraged, friends. ¡Buen fin de semana! Continue reading

Meet “Pablo Español” (Family Fridays)

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 (Photo via Carissa Rogers, Flickr CC)

Happy Friday, friends! Today marks the first chapter of a new and expanded version of Family Fridays.

I’ve been thinking lately about the importance of our communities, both near and far, in our raising our children in more than one language. You know, the whole “it-takes-a-village” notion. We can’t do this thing called bilingual parenting without the support of our neighbors, schools, places of worship, and other members of our world. So, starting this Friday, I’d like to expand the Family Fridays series to include other members of our bilingual family, other than our immediate spouses/partners and children.

Today, specifically, I’d like to introduce you to Greg Sanchez, also known as “Pablo Español,” bilingual singer-songwriter of children’s music. Not only does he share with us today the vision behind his company, but he also speaks about the challenges and joys of raising his two sons in two languages.

Be encouraged, friends. Continue reading