Bilingual is Better

Photo credit: Bloody Nick

“You are obsessed,” my husband tells me a couple of nights ago as I’m frantically (and futilely) looking for a Spanish-speaking (or bilingual) clown on the internet for Vanessa’s 5th birthday party this summer.

He think it’s crazy I’m doing this because, in his view, who cares what language the clown speaks?

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I respond. But then, I start to really think about it. Am I obsessed? Sure I am. I’ll be dammed if my children don’t speak Spanish and the more exposure they have to it, the better. Right?

I’m so afraid that now that Vanessa will be entering Kindergarten and will be exposed to English most of her waking hours from Monday through Friday, her Spanish will fly out the window.

I know I have an advantage over a lot of other families who are raising bilingual children because we use the mL@H method, which means she’ll still hear only Spanish as soon as she gets home from school. But I still worry. She’s never been exposed to so much English and I’m continuously hearing how radically things change once bilingual children enter monolingual schools.

But maybe, just maybe, I am taking it a bit too far.

Consider this: A few days ago, Vanessa started talking about the friends she wanted to invite to her birthday party — something she’s never done. I guess she was too little before and so I always took care of that. She mentioned a lot of her friends from our bilingual playgroup, but then she also mentioned at least two kids from her preschool. I immediately thought how that would work out with the Spanish-speaking clown — if I ever find one — and with the fact that her friends from preschool would be the only monolingual ones. Wouldn’t that be uncomfortable for them?

You see, at all of Vanessa’s birthday parties until know, the guests have all been bilingual. It hasn’t really been an intentional choice since the majority of both her friends and mine belong to our bilingual playgroup. In fact, the majority of our friends in general are bilingual, in part because both my husband and I work in the Spanish media.

But now Vanessa is a bit older and she has made her own friends at preschool and they happen to be monolingual. And, all of a sudden, I’m faced with the realization that Vanessa’s birthday parties have been pretty un-bicultural (I know that’s not a word!) until now.

This brings me back to the point that maybe my husband is right about my obsession with Spanish. I claim that I’m raising a bilingual and bicultural child, but I seem to have been only concerned with one of her languages (Spanish) and one of her cultures (Latino) because I’ve always relied on the fact that she would learn her other language (English) and her other culture (American) outside the home.

And while this is exactly what has happened, now that Vanessa is getting older and she’s starting to venture into the real world more and more, I’m starting to realize that I can’t — and I shouldn’t — keep her two cultures separate. After all, isn’t living in two cultures what being bicultural is all about?

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