Thursday, January 2, 2014

{Raising #Bilingual Children} Documenting Bilingual Life - Day 1

I'm going to call this post, Day 1, although I have been raising my children bilingually since they were born. If I may say so, since they were in the womb. I simply started by just talking to them in my first language, Spanish. 

While my husband and I were engaged we were in complete agreement that we needed to raise our future children bilingually for a variety of reasons. First off, because we wanted them to be able to communicate with my family in Chile, to have good job opportunities, and so that we can share our background culture with them. 

I'd say this has been quite the journey. A journey I couldn't have told you how we were going to accomplish our goal exactly. But one in which our hearts and minds were set on it. To me, that was the first and foremost step. The conviction and the commitment for passing on a language and culture. 

Initially, we used the  one language - one parent methodology. My husband spoke English to our only child (back then) and I'd speak in Spanish. Later on, we decided that my husband would speak to them in English and Spanish and I'd stick to Spanish.  I speak English around them when we are at out or with other family / friends who only speak English. 

I'll never forget the first time my daughter heard me speak English. We were at a public library in Lansing, Michigan for a baby-toddler activity. There were so many moms there with their young children, everyone speaking in English, of course. So I spoke English there too.  She looked at me, puzzled. She understood what I was saying, but I'm pretty sure that was the first time she had really heard speaking to her in English. 

Now my daughter is 5 and she still prefers I speak to her in Spanish. Sometimes at home I'll switch languages and talk to her in English and she tells me  "noooo, say it in EspaƱol."  She also prefers I say "Te quiero" rather than "I love you."  When Daddy - Papa says I love you, she smiles and says I love you too. But when I tell her "I love you", she says no, don't say it like that. So I say "te quiero". She responds "te quiero, mama." 

Thus far my journey towards raising bilingual children has been a learning experience from which I have come to the realization that young children can:

  • hear they are being spoken in different languages
  • recognize what language they are hearing
  • respond in the language they are spoken to
  • learn more than one language naturally

My plan is to share with you what works for us, anecdotes, and encouragement towards raising bilingual children. 

I'd love to hear from you and your experiences. Leave me a message below or join me at my fb page to engage with other readers and hear more about your experience. 

~  Fabi

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