A Tale of Two Languages: Raising Bilinguals

Raising bilingual kids

I never knew bilingualism was a thing until I had a kid. Growing up in a Spanish-speaking country with visionary parents adamant about my sister and I speaking and writing in two languages always felt like the norm. And this was over 30 years ago. Now that bilingualism in the U.S. has become more ubiquitous with serious benefit-boasting scientific research to back it up, what things can we do as parents to optimize the experience?

Figure out the language strategy that works for you

For those parents who are thinking about raising their children in two languages, there are three main language policies to consider. One parent, one language is the one I’m using where one parent is consistently the one that speaks the language. Minority language at home means that the parents always speak the language whenever they’re with the kids. And there’s language time, a technique where the parent designates a particular amount of time for the language, setting expectations for the child, like 10 minutes a day and eventually working themselves up to days or even weeks at a time.  This one seems to come in particularly handy when you’re teaching two, three, even four languages like this multilingual Mom.

Check out the in-language section at your local library or local bookstore

I was at the the Battery Park City library last week and was thrilled to have stumbled upon a very limited “section” of Spanish books for young children. It gave us a good opportunity to browse through books different from the ones at home, and we could even check them out. Barnes and Nobles is also another good resource and their availability of Spanish books is much larger, although small too. Spanish-language bookstore in the city, anyone?

Learn how to use the SAP feature on your TV ASAP

If you have a designated screen time (we have chunks in the morning and evening), make sure to make them count. Curate language just as you curate the content.  Which means, learn where the SAP feature is on your TV and activate it, pronto! I’m guilty of this myself and have to figure this out in the next few days.  By the way, did you know that even the most popular childrens’ films are dubbed in Spanish? Check this out.

Look into bilingual enrichment activities that emphasize learning the language

All over NYC, there are enrichment classes that use music, art, games and dramatic play to teach Spanish. Classes like Bilingual Birdies, Creative Play, and Brooklyn Beanstalk are just a few around the city.

I leave you with a few excellent resources I’ve found once I started digging into this fascinating topic. It’s a definitely a labor of love, but so worth it.

Bilingual Avenue

Spanglish Baby

Ser Padres

Hola Héctor!













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