Given that workplace compensation for bilingualism is becoming more and more scarce in the U.S., I am grateful that I can reap the benefits of my Spanish skills as a self-employed tutor. While I do not get paid more per hour for being bilingual, I often book Spanish-speaking clients, whose business I would otherwise lose due to an inability to communicate.
In Orlando (where I live) and all over Florida, there is a particularly great need for ways to bridge the gap between immigrants and their first-generation children, especially when it comes to educational quality. Many of my students struggle in middle and high school with English reading and writing skills because their monolingual parents cannot reinforce these at home. Along with catering to the Latino market for day-to-day academic tutoring needs, I want to someday specialize in assisting bilingual teenagers with the college and scholarship application processes. The potential roles of Spanish in a family-oriented business such as mine are infinite. I can only hope that my Spanish communication continues to be appreciated as it becomes more and more necessary for this rapidly transforming demographic to easily acquire the same goods and services as monolingual, English-speaking Americans.
On a personal note, I am enjoying every little opportunity to conduct my professional life in my second language. It serves to shift the balance between the two languages in my life in a more challenging direction: the Spanish direction. It makes my spontaneous Spanish (as opposed to the planned, expected Spanish use) much more advanced and comfortable. My cultural knowledge also allows me to earn the long-term respect of my clients, since many of those who can speak Spanish only in a business context do not pay attention to variations in nationality, dialect, and customs.
This shift has had an effect on the amount and complexity of Spanish that my son hears me using. It used to be that I would speak Spanish to him and English to everyone else. Now, he overhears my phone calls in Spanish with current and potential clients and listens to me reading my business materials aloud to myself as I translate them. Without explicitly stating it, I am showing him yet another benefit of speaking Spanish in his community. In the same way that it is important for bilingual children to be acquainted with the casual, personal purposes of both of their tongues, it is essential that they absorb the more substantive, professional uses so that they ultimately perceive language as the multifunctional tool that it is for all of us.
I anticipate Spanish becoming an even bigger part of my work life. Luckily, work and home often collide in my world, and the way that I incorporate Spanish in my job supports my ongoing decision to parent a bilingual.
I am interested in hearing from the SB community: do your children have an opportunity to observe your professional, more formal Spanish usage?