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August 18, 2011

Raising a bilingual Child

It is my hope that our child will be Bilingual. I know that's ambitious, especially considering I'm the only bilingual one in the relationship and English is our common denominator... but It is my goal. I also know that with all the planning i'm doing now, flexibility will be the key, b/c our child will have a mind of his/her own!

I came across this article that I thought was very interesting and helpful... I've copy and pasted parts of it, but i encourage you to read the WHOLE article!! It is very informative and I'm sure there are others like myself in an inter-racial relationship; raising a mixed heritage child, or in a 100% ethnic relationship with a 100% blooded child, but who are 1.5 or 2nd generation (or more) in the States.

It is such a blessing to have a cultural background, and i hope to make the best of all the worlds our child can pull from to make his/her world as colorful as it can possibly be!

| By Leslie Berestein Rojas

Trying to raise bilingual kids? How to stay on track when English is easiest 

"Surrounding yourself (and your child) with books in your native language can help Parents who are trying to raise bilingual children might be familiar with SpanglishBaby, a website dedicated to that goal.

And let’s face it, for those of us who have lived in the United States all or most of our lives, it can seem like an elusive goal at times. As fluent as we may be in the language of our parents, it’s easiest to fall back on English. More so if our partner is a monolingual English speaker, or someone who grew up speaking a language different from ours.

At the same time, research has shown how much a child can gain from speaking a second language. Aside from the obvious – communicating with grandparents, future job prospects – being bilingual can boost brain development and provide benefits for life.

What to do? Roxana Soto, co-founder and editorial director of SpanglishBaby, is here to help with a few tips for overcoming the temptation to give up. More tips from SpanglishBaby will be included in a forthcoming book due out in fall 2012.

M-A: If you’re second-generation or 1.5, it’s likely that you speak English at home, even if you are bilingual. You want to speak Spanish/Mandarin/Tagalog/etc. around your child, but it’s easy to slip into English. How to overcome this temptation – or perhaps, this laziness factor – in order to teach your child your native language?

Soto: This is definitely a common issue among those trying to raise bilingual children and probably the most popular reason why many of them eventually give up. Regardless of what languages we speak, the reality is that we are surrounded by English everywhere we go. My suggestions are to start speaking to your child in your native tongue in utero, that way it comes much natural when she is born. However, it is never too late to start. Just be prepared to face some resistance depending on your child’s age.

Surround yourself (as opposed to just your children) with your native tongue. So, if Spanish is your native language, listen to music, watch movies and read books, magazines, blogs in Spanish. Along the same lines, try to hang out with native speakers or join a meetup for those who speak your native language, so you are forced to practice it on a regular basis.

M-A: If your partner speaks only English, what to do?

Soto: I have nothing but utmost respect for those families using the OPOL (One Parent One Language) method. I am blown away by their commitment to raise bilingual children despite the obvious difficulties in speaking to them in a language the other parent does not comprehend. Having said that though, it should be noted that it is not only doable, but it is done all over the world, as this is the most popular method of raising children with more than one language.

First of all, you are going to need the support of your monolingual partner. (While not impossible, lacking that support will only make things much more complicated.) You are also going to need to stay committed to speaking in your native language and have your children act as interpreters for the monolingual parent, which apparently happens quite naturally. In the end, your monolingual partner will end up learning at least the basics of your native tongue after listening to it all the time. A win-win situation for all.

A while ago we dedicated a whole week to the topic of raising bilingual kids using the OPOL method, which has been one of the most popular since we launched our blog two and a half years ago. The one thing I learned then was that having a monolingual parent should not be an excuse not to raise bilingual children. While lots will say it is really difficult – and I tend to agree – I know for a fact that it works because I have witnessed how a friend of mine has been doing just that with her two children and her monolingual husband with much success.

M-A: Is there a magic age window during which to do this? What to do if your child is older, say already older than five?

Soto: I know it sounds trite, but it is NEVER too late. It’s just easier (when they are younger). Many experts agree that the optimal time seems to be from birth to 3 years – which is when a child is learning his first language, and his mind is still open and flexible.

The next best time for learning a second language is apparently when kids are between ages 4 and before puberty, because they can still process multiple languages on parallel paths. In other words, they build a second language system alongside the first and learn to speak both languages like a native. After puberty, studies show, new languages are stored in a separate area of the brain, so children have to translate or go through their native language as a path to the new language.

So if you did not get started with the minority language when they were born and now your child is already in school, do not despair. You may be faced with resistance, but if you make sure the way you are exposing your child to the minority language is fun – via music, movies, books, apps, games – you will have more than half the battle won."

1 comment:

  1. I think it's great that you plan to raise your child bilingually! I have friends who were raised in bilingual households, and they seemed to have a much easier time picking up additional languages later in life, too.


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