My Bilingual Daughter

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One of the biggest fears for those of us raising our bilingual children using the mL@H (minority language at home) method is that they won’t get enough exposure to the majority language, in this case English, and will be behind once they enter preschool or Kindergarten. It certainly was one of my very real worries and, from the Ask an Expert questions, comments, and emails we’ve gotten from you, it seems like it’s something that’s been on your mind too.

Unlike those of you who use the OPOL (one parent, one language) method through which children are exposed to both the majority and the minority language practically simultaneously, mL@H children – or at least mine – don’t really hear too much English at all, except when they go out in the community or they watch an occasional movies or TV show in the majority language, which truly happens very rarely in our household.

While the benefits of using the mL@H method are gigantic – my children’s vocabulary in Spanish is expansive, they never feel like it’s a chore to speak Spanish because they never really had another option, we don’t really do anything out of the ordinary to make sure they’re exposed to Spanish because this is simply the language we have always used at home – there are also some drawbacks to it.

I’ve written about how worried I was about my daughter’s lack of English when she entered a parent’s day out program at our local church when she was 2 years old. And then I’ve also written about how unfounded those fears were. Today, though, I want to share with you a quick video of my daughter and her big brother speaking English, as tangible proof that if you use the mL@H method, there’s nothing to worry about.

My 20-year-old bilingual stepson spent the holidays with us and he found it really amusing that Vanessa could speak English, so he kept on begging her to say something in their second language and, since she thinks the world of him, she joyfully obliged. While you watch the video, please keep in mind that no one in our family – including my mom, my siblings, and in-laws – nor our nanny, speaks English to either Vanessa or her baby brother Santiago. What you’ll hear is what she’s learned at  preschool where she goes three times a week, for a total of 15 hours, for the last two years.

Enjoy and let me know what you think!

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