The Gift of Language from the Abuelos

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Photo by in a N.Y. State of Mind

Today is the first day of our Week of Mamás Blogueras. We’ve invited five incredible women/moms/blogueras to share with SpanglishBaby friends their tips and stories of success, defeat, love and passion as they raise bilingual and bicultural kids.

The first guest post is by the mother of three children under four, Tati, who was raised as a bilingual (English/Spanish) “gringa” thanks to the love, determination and home-schooling of her mother, Ginny.  They both blog at Wanna Jugar With Migo, where they share their creative ideas about teaching Spanish.

Are you going to teach your children to speak Spanish?” everyone asked me after I was married. My husband and I both speak Spanish fluently, so it seemed logical that we would teach our children.

I lived in Honduras for three years as a teenager where I was immersed in the language and culture. He lived in Guatemala for two years as a missionary. It just made sense that we would teach our children Spanish. But, would we really teach them to become fluent?

I knew the best way for children to learn a language is through immersion. I considered speaking to them only in Spanish, but how would that affect my relationship with my kids? I would have to play silly games with them, tickle them, and change their diaper, all in Spanish. That didn’t seem natural! Of course, English comes more naturally and easily to me. Would I be willing to make that change in my lifestyle just so they could speak Spanish? What would they get out of it? They would learn to love a wonderful culture and people. We could live overseas as a family together and make friendships with the people there. But would it be worth it? We decided it would.

Spanish Only Days

Because I was not willing to speak only Spanish with my children, we decided that both of us would speak Spanish on certain days. We found that three consecutive days worked best, so Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday became our Spanish days.

We have found many challenges to keep our rule of “Spanish only” on these days. Transitioning times like a move, a new baby or vacation have disrupted our routine. Also, on Spanish days, instances come up that we need to speak English like when playing with friends or talking on the phone. Although we have stopped from time to time, we have always come back to it.

Photo by kimberlyfaye

Photo by kimberlyfaye

The Spanish language has played a big role in my immediate family, although we are not Hispanic. My parents have always loved Spanish and Latin American culture. They have spent over eight years living in different Latin American countries: Mexico, Honduras, Colombia, Ecuador and Panama.

My mother homeschooled me and gave me Spanish lessons. Her excitement for the language helped me become fluent while we lived in Honduras. When I decided to teach my children through immersion, she was excited to hear that I would be teaching my children even more Spanish than she taught me. The support we have received from my parents has helped us persist even when it has been difficult. My mom asks me every once and a while on Spanish days if we are speaking Spanish. Obviously I am not speaking Spanish to them just for my mom, but it helps to know someone is checking up on me like a work-out partner that wakes you up every morning.

Sometimes I want to share all the little success stories that I have as my girls learn to speak Spanish. As grandparents, my father and mother love to hear every little new thing my girls learn. Hearing their excitement helps me keep going.

My mother and I also created a blog to share ideas of teaching Spanish to children. This helps me keep my goals and stay motivated. My parents usually buy Spanish books, DVDs and toys to reinforce the girls’ learning. This past Christmas my mom created a songbook for my girls with traditional Latin American children’s songs and other Spanish teaching songs along with visual aids to help them understand the meaning of the words. She sat down and taught them the words and music for each song. We pull this out on Spanish days. The girls not only love singing the songs, but it reminds them of their abuelos.

I am grateful for the support I have from my parents and for the gift they gave to me of a second language. I hope to pass on this wonderful gift to my own children.

Come back tomorrow to get expert advice from Jennifer Manriquez, better known as Maestra Jen from Bilingual Fun, on how to teach children Spanish through playful, meaningful activities, all part of our Week of Mamás Blogueras.

Starting tomorrow, Tuesday, March 31st, we’ll be giving away four baskets of Naturally-Victoria Secret’s new beauty line made from natural ingredients.  You know you want one!

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