When my husband and I met our daughter’s preschool teachers during orientation last year, we made sure we let both of them know we were raising her bilingual using the mL@H method. We explained that although, at first, it would seem as if Vanessa was not very verbal, the truth was that her vocabulary was much more extensive in Spanish than in English, since we only speak to her in the former. We just wanted to make sure that they knew what was going on, but we also wanted to gauge their understanding of bilingualism and their attitude toward it and the fact that Vanessa’s first language is Spanish—after all, not everyone, including educators, seems to understand or believe in the tremendous benefits of bilingualism.
Luckily, both of them were completely interested and asked several questions about the subject. The lead teacher congratulated us and lamented how she wished her father had taught her the Navajo language so that she could’ve felt more at ease when visiting his side of the family—not to mention being able to communicate with her great-grandmother. Now, not a day goes by when I’m not greeted by one of them blurting out a Spanish word or phrase they learned from my daughter! In fact, the lead teacher is so supportive that when she mentioned I might want to start teaching Vanessa how to read (because she’s shown such a genuine interest in it and letters and sounds), she actually did some research and one day showed up with a few bilingual books she’d purchased for the class, which she thought would be perfect for Vanessa and let us take them home with us. Although I so wished I had found a bilingual or Spanish immersion preschool for her, I have to be thankful for the fact that, at the very least, her teachers understand and support, as best they can, our choice to raise her in two languages.
If you’re children do not attend a bilingual or immersion school, I suggest you raise their educators’ awareness about bilingualism (and multiculturalism) in order to make your goals more realistic. We’ve always advocated for as much support as possible from as many resources as possible in order to be successful in raising bilingual children. Remember that teachers tend to spend more time with our kids than we do, but more importantly, they can be incredibly influential in their lives and the way they perceive things. So having them on our side is extremely important.
It’s a great idea to share with your children’s teachers the reasons why you’ve decided to go the bilingual way. If they seem to be unfamiliar with this topic or don’t sound too enthusiastic about it, maybe you can explain some of the benefits—not everyone is aware of them—or help dispel some of the myths. Another way to raise awareness is to volunteer to read to the children in your native language. I recently did this at my daughter’s preschool and I can’t tell you how rewarding it was. In fact, I promise to write about it soon! I chose a bilingual book—one embedded with Spanish words—and I think it was a hit. Not to mention the fact that it allowed me to show Vanessa how much I value our native language helping me create a perceived need for it.
The more awareness we raise regarding bilingualism, the better off our children will be!