One thing that I am very aware of is that raising a bilingual child in a predominantly English speaking world is challenging and it is going to take a lot of effort and time for us to succeed. I was reading 12 things parents raising bilingual children need to know and have experienced many of these just by observing my neice, Isabel.
Isabel was essentially raised by her Spanish-speaking Peruvian abuela. The same abuela who has taken care of Santiago for the past 15 months, before we sent him off to daycare in September. Abuela speaks only Spanish, yet after Isabel went to school at the age of two, she decided that English was what she was going to speak. She understands and speaks a few words but is by no means fluent. So when looking at this article, I can relate and am on a mission to figure out the right steps to take to succeed in raising Santiago to speak both Spanish & English.
The first point the author discusses is “It doesn’t happen by magic“. It’s important for me and my husband and whoever is trying to raise their children bilingual that there is a lot of effort and emphasis that needs to be placed on the second language if the child is truly going to e bilingual. Along with this you need to be extremely consistent, “Consistency is crucial” and “Plan Ahead“. I keep thinking about laying out a plan, and in the next week I plan to in one of my future blogs. Without a plan, you really don’t know where you’re going.
The fourth point talks about Paying Attention to Exposure Time and recommends that the child should be exposed to the language for at least 30% of their waking hours. Along with this point is spending that Extra Time reading, talking, and taking vacations that involve the second language.
The author points out that There will be doubters, Don’t listen to bad advice, and It’s not always easy, and Your child might answer you in the “wrong” language. These are important tips, essentially this means follow your heart and your plan and if it works out it works out, if it doesn’t seek advice from those who are experts in the field and don’t give up if your child just doesn’t get it.
The last four points: Your children will gain an array of benefits by becoming bilingual, You will never regret it, and You will be Proud are the most motivating points for me. Some of the benefits to being bilingual include the delay of dementia, the improvement of a child’s working memory, the improvement of the brain’s executive function, the improvement and betterment of multi-tasking, and being more open-minded and sensitive to others, among other benefits. Although it’s a lot of work and effort, I’m sure most successful and even unsuccessful parents can say that they have never regretted it and are extremely proud.
Back to Isabel. After reading all these tips, there was never a path laid out for her, it was at whim. Her abuela and abuelo spoke Spanish to her but when she didn’t understand (because her mother and father, though both Native Spanish speaking people never made a concerted effort to speak Spanish), they would convert to English to appease Isabel. I’ve learned from that and now plan on having a plan and having a serious conversation with Berta & Luis Sr. to pave the way forward for Santiago and little baby (soon to be born).
I really enjoyed reading these tips and am looking forward to planning and sharing my path to raising bilingual babies. Soon to come…