I hate to use the word “mistakes” because I think the journey can be difficult enough without adding any more pressure. Mostly I just wanted to compile a list of some of the things that parents have been known to do which have hindered the process of raising a bilingual child. They’re really meant more as reference than as a list of “thou shalt not” dos.
While I was researching this topic, I came across some pretty interesting reasons why parents fail at raising their children bilingual. In the end, I came to the conclusion that it really boils down to one major thing. So, before I list some of these “mistakes,” I just want to emphasis that perseverance is probably the most essential trait you need to posses when raising bilingual children. If you just keep at it–even when it feels like you’re failing or you’re not seeing the results as quickly as you’d like–in the end, it will all be worth it.
Try to keep this in mind:
- One thing is to be consistent, it is another to be inflexible. Speaking the second language should not become a burdensome task for your children. Try to make it as fun and natural as possible without making rules that can’t be broken. Otherwise, it will become a struggle–especially the older your children get–and you might eventually feel like you won’t win the uphill battle.
- Along the same lines, instead of correcting every single mistake your child makes, try repeating what he just said the correct way. Be patient, making mistakes is part of the process. Again, if you make a huge deal out of this, the whole thing will just become a punishing chore. You will fail. What you actually need to be doing is praising endlessly! Motivation will make a huge difference.
- Caving in to what “others” have to say about your decision to raise your children bi/multilingual will get you nowhere. Let’s face it, myths about this alternative way of raising children abound, especially in this country where being monolingual is the norm. People–whether it be your in-laws, neighbors, so-called friend and even some teachers & pediatricians–will always have something to say when you decide to do things “differently.” Do your own research, surround yourself with others in the same boat, ask for a second opinion (if the negative comments are coming from a “professional”). In the end, you are the parent and it is up to you to decide what is best for your kids.
- Using movies and music in the minority language is great, as long as they’re used as supplements. Sitting your child in front of the set to watch the Spanish version of Cars, for example, will do her no good if this is the only exposure she has to the language the whole entire day. Although it is better than nothing, you need to speak to your child directly and intently. The more she hears you speak the minority language, the more she will learn.
- Thinking it is way too late to start. Let’s see in how many ways I can say this: Late is better than never. It is never too late. If not now, probably never. It’s easier the earlier you start, but it is not impossible if you start later.
It is totally normal to feel like giving up at some point along the journey. Feelings of discouragement are part of the process, but when you do feel like that, try to look for support from others who are also raising bilingual kids. And, remember, you can always come to SpanglishBaby and drop us a line about what’s bothering you or the struggles you’re going through, we promise to remind you of the value of your decision, but most of all, we promise to be a place where you can just blow off some steam!
Have you ever thought about giving up? What has stopped? What advice would you give a parent that’s thinking about giving up?