Bilingual is Better
Photo by Orin Zebest

Photo by Orin Zebest

“Au revoir,” my daughter finally said to the owner of our neighborhood French bakery recently as we were leaving after getting our fill of the most yummy, buttery croissants and perfectly baked quiche Lorraine. I was beaming. She’s known how to say goodbye in French for a while now, but she always refuses to say it when I prod…I wonder why?

We go to the bakery at least once every two weeks, after I pick her up from preschool . Up until now, I had always seen it as an awesome opportunity for me to practice my French. But after the “goodbye” episode, I realized it has also been a great way to expose Vanessa to a third language and to show her, instead of telling her, how awesome it is that I can communicate with the owners in their native language. Talk about creating a perceived need for the minority laguage!

This got me thinking about a few ways to expose our children to the minority language that might not seem very obvious or typical, but are awesome opportunities nonetheless. More than anything else, these are pretty simple things you can do on a regular basis which don’t require a lot of effort on your part.

1. Restaurants

Although Denver is not devoid of Latino restaurants, it’s in its infancy stage when compared to where I come from: Miami. Nevertheless, we have found a few great spots—some we frequent often because they’re near and some only on special occasions because they’re far. I’m talking about the kind of restaurants where Spanish is spoken freely and the menu is often in both languages, kind of like the French bakery I talked about at the top. If you’re children are already reading, they can choose what they want and ask for it in Spanish! If not, you can introduce new vocabulary by talking about the items on the menu. This is also a great opportunity to talk about the culture of food!

2. Bodegas/Mercados/Hispanic Grocery Stores

Again, not a lot of these in my neck-of-the-woods, but enough for me to take my children and allow them to be surrounded by some of the smells and colors of our foods—an integral part of our culture. I like to take my daughter to one of this mercados and introduce her to some of the candy I used to enjoy as a child. Some is from my homeland, Peru, and some is from Mexico where I spent a few years as a child. Not only are these great places to expose our kids to Spanish, but also to our culture.

3. Places of Worship

When I was looking into baptizing my daughter, I knew I needed to find a church that offered services in Spanish so my 92-year-old grandmother, visiting from Perú, wouldn’t be lost during the ceremony. It wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be, but I found one. Now, three years after moving to Denver, I know of many others. The great thing is that you can probably find one which meets your needs regardless of denomination. Besides attending the service in the minority language, most churches organize activities and events outside of mass. So this could be another great place for your children to be brought into contact with the minority language with others who share your beliefs.

It’s important to note these suggestions are universal. In other words, they apply no matter which minority language you’re using. For example, just the other day, I drove by a Korean Methodist Church, which I later found out was started to cater to the Korean population in that area of Denver! The same can be said about ethnic food markets, not to mention restaurants and bakeries where other heritage languages, besides Spanish, is spoken.

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