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!
I was also shocked the way my sons learned English. Even though we use the OPOL method, English is not one of the languages we use. I speak to the boys in Spanish and Dad speaks to them in German. They do hear English though, but were never required them to speak it. I was nervous when the boys started pre-school in September. After failing to find a bilingual preschool. I was lucky to find a school where their teachers knew Spanish. These teachers are wonderful! Luke’s teacher is bilingual and Patrick’s teacher is fluent in four languages. Both assured me that they would be fine. It is amazing how fast they learned English, and I am fortunate that both teachers continue to use Spanish with them. It is truly amazing how children learn language.
I’ve always thought it’s so awesome what you’re doing, Susan! Your sons are lucky boys!
It sounds like you found a great preschool. My daughter has Spanish for 20 minutes on Mondays at her preschool and the teacher is the only other one who speaks Spanish there. My daughter never says much about her Spanish lesson, but I think because it’s probably pretty much a joke for her!
And, you’re right, it really is truly incredible how kids learn languages!
La Candela!!!! I love, love, love this video. She is hilarious and her brother is very sweet with her!
Hey, I didn’t speak English until I was 4 and look at me, all good with the words and punctuation and all that stuff! I even make a living as a writer in English and can barely remember una papa en espanol!
Gracias, Carrie! She was made for the camera, what can I say? Meantime, her mamá hates it! Go figure!
I’d no idea you didn’t speak English until you were my daughter’s age, but I’m not surprised. My stepson didn’t speak it until he was FIVE! And, as is evidence on this video, he has absolutely no problem with either languages!
Vanessa is just adorable.. thank you for sharing this video.
We speak to our daugther in both languages -even though our primary language is Spanish and thats what we use at home.
I started translating EVERYTHING to her in both languages when we lived in Colorado, so that she could undertand our friends who did not speak Spanish. Now, that we live in Fl and are family only speaks Spanish, I keep doing it. She watches TV in both languages and I write on her books the terms in both languages so that we can read them on both languages.
My husband says I am a walking dictinionary -lol! always saying everything in two languages. Aun los rega~os!
Su vocabulario en espa~ol es definitivamente mas amplio que en Ingles, pero entiende todo en ingles. Y las veces que esta entres sus primos q no hablan mucho espa~ol, se entienden de los mas bien.
Thank you – thank you for your post.. I love it!
Dorita, thanks for watching it!
You are one super mom!! Translating everything… I can’t even imagine!!! Pero que bueno por Anabella!!! I’d love to hear you translating regaños, jajaj!!! Eso debe estar buenísimo!!! Maybe you can do a video and share it with all of us. I’m sure it’d be amazing!!!
Adorable video! Thanks for sharing this. I can understand people being sceptical of how quickly and thoroughly the majority language (English, in the USA) can work its way into a child’s mind. I must say it would seem rather incredible. That is, until you see it blossoming before your own eyes!
My family is fortunate to live in a city and neighborhood where there are many bilingual people, and in fact, half the people at my work are bilingual or have bilingual children (various languages). So I know this is actually the norm… but it’s still amazing!!!
Beth, it is amazing, I guess that’s the reason why I decided to do this video and share it here.
I’m saddened by the fact that our neighborhood is anything but bilingual or multicultural, although I guess I should count our blessings, our next door neighbor is Colombian and she only speaks to our family in Spanish, so at least there’s that.
I didn’t learn to speak English until I came to the USA when I was almost 8 years old. Do I get a premio? hee hee
Dorita, you are so cute and so thoughtful. I never translate for anyone, except for specific words for my kiddos.
Rox, stop hiding and come to a meetup so Vane will have amigitos con quien hablar espaniol.
Today I found out Gaspar is teaching his whole preschool class Spanish. Maybe I should let the school pay me to let him go there.
AG – Of course you get a prize… what do you want?? Jajaj!!!
You must know there’s nothing I’d like more than to take both Vanessa and Santiago to at least one meetup a month, pero cuándo si trabajo todo el día?? Just the other day I was telling Mary how much I miss all of you, but especially how much I don’t like that Vanessa’s not getting to spend time with her bilingual friends….
Gaspar es lo máximo. Just like I told Dorita, you should take a video of him teaching Spanish and share it with all of us here!!
Miss you a lot, amiga!
Rox, Great video, sooo cute. Well It is truly amazing how they pick up the language. In our case, Alex is exposed to Spanish 90% of the time since the Preschool he attends is mostly in Spanish and that is usually what we speak at home, yet he is able to speak english when we go out. The only time he has an issue is when Someone asks him, How old are you? Alex says “fine” LOL
Aaaah! She is so freaking cute! Dude! Thanks for sharing. We miss you guys.
I just discovered this blog a few weeks ago and am completely intrigued. My husband and I both speak English only but would really love to raise our son (only 6 months old right now) exposed to Spanish, if not bilingual. We’re looking into immersion preschools. So, I’m curious – would this work backwards? Could my son pick up Spanish if he only heard it at preschool a few times a week? I try to read him books in Spanish and I’m learning more and more as I try to speak to him in different phrases throughout the day, but it’s not easy.
I’ve heard it’s better if one parents speaks English and one parent speaks Spanish (instead of a child hearing two languages from one parent), but since that’s not possible for us, I’m wondering if we’re just confusing him by speaking to him in both.
Anyways, I love following this blog and hope to learn more!
Laura, I’m sure the experts can add more to this. My Son goes to an immersion preschool even though we speak Spanish at home since I do want him to be Bilingual-Biliterate. 90% of the Children in his classroom do not speak Spanish at home and speak Spanish perfectly just from going to preschool. The earlier the better.!!! Good Luck.
Good to know! Thanks so much.
You’ve got great insights about vocabualrio en ingles, keep up the good work!