Editor’s note: During the next few weeks, we’re going to be doing things a bit differently here as Ana and I concentrate in meeting the deadline for the forthcoming SpanglishBaby book. We hope you bear with us.
Because we’ve been around for almost three years (wow! when did that happen?), this week we’ll be sharing some classic posts from when it all got started. This post was originally published on February 2, 2009.
It Can’t Hurt
I never really questioned whether or not Vanessa would grow up bilingual. As far as I knew, we would talk to her in our first language, Spanish, from the moment she was born. English, I figured, she would pick up from her surroundings – we live in Colorado – and eventually in preschool. In fact, the more I think about it, the more convinced I am that I want Vanessa to be multilingual. It can’t hurt. It hasn’t hurt me. On the contrary, being a bilingual journalist has opened twice as many doors as being a monolingual one would ever have!
Maybe it has to do with my own fascination with languages. I speak three and for a while now, I’ve been toying with the idea of learning a fourth one. Most of the members in my family are bilingual and several of them speak a third language – maybe not fluently, but well enough to make themselves understood if need be. In fact, an aunt of mine recently started taking Italian lessons and she is in her late sixties!
Why Do It?
According to the Multilingual Children’s Association, there are more pros than cons to raising your kids bilingual. Check some of them out:
- It is easier to learn another language from birth than it is during any other time in life — baby simply has two first languages.
- Multilingualism has been proven to help your child develop superior reading and writing skills.
- Multilingual children also tend to have over all better analytical, social, and academic skills than their monolingual peers.
- Knowing more than one language helps your child feel at ease in different environments. It creates a natural flexibility and adaptability, and it increases her self-esteem and self confidence.
- Career prospects are multiplied many times over for people who know more than one language.
All these reasons are great, but the truly most important reason for me is that it wouldn’t feel like Vanessa is my daughter if she didn’t speak the language of our ancestors; if she couldn’t sing Arroz con leche…; if she couldn’t call her Dad, “Papito”; if her cousins in Perú, México or Puerto Rico asked her to play “a las escondidas” and she had to ask me for a translation…Speaking Spanish to her is about cultural identity, it’s about familia. It’s a matter very close to our heart.
In the end – no matter your reasons for doing it – it’s a win-win situation. We, at SpanglishBaby, hope we can show you so in the months to come. We also hope to answer your questions, give you tips on how we are doing it and hear what you have to say about this mighty challenge that is totally worth the effort!
Thanks for stopping by and we hope to see you often!
We are all here to inspire and motivate each other. Share with us your reasons for raising a bilingual/bi-cultural child.
It never even crossed my mind to raise my son monolingually, for many reasons. I’m Canadian living in Mexico, he was born here and has never left. I am bilingual, but the idea of not speaking English to my son seemed absurd really. I know some Anglo parents here for whatever reason only speak Spanish to their kids and I believe they are stealing from them (strong words, but it’s my opinion). Bilingualism is a RIGHT for a kid with parents who have multiple languages. Grandparents come to visit from England/Canada/USA and can’t communicate with their own family! (Sorry, I digress…..)
Raising a bilingual son gives him advantages besides being able to talk to both sides of his family. Better opportunities all around, in jobs, travel, relationships, plus bilingual kids are known to be more adept in maths and sciences and it has been shown that bilingualism can lower the chances of Alzheimers. The list goes on and on.
I guess what it comes down to is he is half Mexican and half Canadian, darn tooting he’s going to be bilingual, I wouldn’t have it any other way!
I totally get what you’re saying. I’ve met a few people who could’ve easily given this gift to their children and decided otherwise. In fact, I knew somebody who was born and mostly raised in a Latin American country and only moved here to go to college. However, when she had a child, she decided to only speak English to her because it was easiest. Therefore, the kid couldn’t communicate with her grandmother! Very sad… but who am I to judge, right?
I wasn’t raised bilingual. My parents and grandparents did this out of love. They didn’t want me to be mocked the way they were. For example, my grandpa was always very sensitive about his ability to speak English because he was teased as a child.
Times are different.
I am raising my daughters to be multilingual out of love. Language is the gateway to cross-cultural understanding, compassion, and curiosity. These are tools they will need to understand others as well as themselves.
Many people felt the exact same way your parents and grandparents did, Kelly. Especially in the part of the country where I know live. In fact, in Colorado it really wasn’t about getting mocked, it was more about getting spanked and discriminated against!
Luckily, things have changed and so now we’re seeing a generation of monolinguals who are making every attempt possible to raise bilingual children.
I have a 19 month old and he is *crossing our fingers* going to be bilingual. His father is from Mexico and I the U.S. although my spanish isn’t perfect, I started attending spanish classes at my college so that my son can grow up knowing both English and Spanish. Sometimes it is hard because I don’t want to teach him wrong. I have a book in Spanish and English that we read at night time and I try to only get him toys that have an English and Spanish setting. I think it is important for him to understand both languages so when he is speaking to his father’s side of the family he will feel comfortable. It sure is hard.
It sure is hard, Alishia. There’s no denying that!
I congratulate you on your efforts. Keep at it. It will all be worth it in the end
I am not bilingual and neither is my husband but I want my son to learn Spanish fluently if possible. Right now, he takes Spanish in preschool but I am thinking of hiring someone once a week to speak strictly Spanish to him in hopes of him learning.
Do you have any other suggestions of how to get started when neither parent is bilingual?
Wow! That’s awesome Kathy! Your son is a lucky to have parents like you!
Although not easy at all, it’s definitely doable. We’ve actually written some about this topic. I suggest you start here: http://www.spanglishbaby.com/2009/03/spanish-not-your-native-language-you-can-still-raise-bilingual-kids/
You can also check the related posts at the bottom of that post!
Good luck and please feel free to ask for help. That’s what we’re here for