Raising children to be bilingual has become one of hardest projects I’ve signed up for…
Those of us embarking on the journey of raising bilingual children know that even though we wouldn’t have it any other way, it definitely is not an easy thing to do. I am a true believer that children do not become bilingual “by magic”. There is a persistent myth claiming that “children are like sponges when it comes to language” and that they will learn all languages they hear regularly – in my experience this is simply not true. Yes, in the right circumstances children will naturally grow up to acquire the family languages, but this cannot be taken for granted. In order for true bilingualism to happen you have to work so hard in making sure that-
- You need to have a plan and stick to it.
- Understand that consistency is crucial, but also have a sense of hyper awareness because we’re always placing language input as a day-to-day, moment-to-moment priority. (In other words, we really never turn off the raising-bilingual-kids chip!)
- You have to invest extra time and possibly money in doing so.
- You will have to ignore doubters and understand not everyone around us have the same agenda or is aware of the Golden Rule of Bilingualism – “One parent speaks ONLY ONE language to their child(ren).” Some friends might find it fascinating and support you but others will find it offensive when you talk to your children in a language they cannot understand… so just ignore and keep walking…
- Surround your children with people and moments that will create for him a perceived need to speak the language. It helps them to be in situations where they need to be proactive about choosing to speak the language and feeling accomplished that they are able to do it on their own.
- It will be challenging and create tension but it is crucial that you don’t give up.
And if you are overwhelmed and exhausted making sure that all this happens… you are not alone!! I know exactly how you feel! Keep the Spanish (or your native language) coming and one day they will surprise you! One quick tip- the public library always has a great Spanish book section with cute beginner books! It’s all about building their vocabulary first! (Just like in English) plus it will great practice for you!!! I will keep sharing my anecdotes, and hoping to read more of your tails too! I promise you it will be so worth it and you will be proud!! If you have any great tips or great experiences to share please do so in the comments below!
Credit: Rita Rosenback – Author of Bringing up a Bilingual Child