TEaching my daughter about linguistic diversityI hold the following quote by the linguist, Tove Skutnab-Kangas, dear to my heart and one that is always resonating with me during my day-to-day endeavors to raise a multilingual child.

Linguicism includes the “ideologies and structures which are used to legitimate, effectuate, and reproduce unequal division of power and resources (both material and non-material) between groups which are defined on the basis of language.” This includes the languages we choose to teach our children and the ways we choose to expose them to those languages. In my opinion, for those that live in the U.S., Spanish should be one of the first choices when deciding which other language to learn, unless of course there are cultural reasons like one parent being from a non-Spanish speaking country.

One of the ways I was trying to guarantee Sabrina continues to develop relationships with Spanish-speaking individuals was by attempting to form a Spanish-speaking play date. I have to admit I was, like many of us have been, guilty of being a linguicist, if you will. My most recent offense was trying to form a playgroup, as mentioned, for parents who ONLY speak in Spanish to their children. It was unsuccessful on many accounts.

First, I learned that many of the parents I know (native speakers to non-native speakers of Spanish) do not strictly speak to their children in one language, which is very common here in Austin, Texas, as in other Latino communities in the U.S., like Miami and New York City. Secondly, I learned how open some parents are with how I communicate with my daughter despite their lack of understanding Spanish.

To my surprise, my most valuable resources were right in front of me. Most of my friends are bilingual and understand Spanish, which means speaking to Sabrina in Spanish will never be a problem. Though they don’t speak strictly in Spanish, Spanish and English do flow back and forth when communicating with their children. I also learned that Sabrina’s peers from daycare actually understand ME when we have gotten together for birthday parties even though they mostly come from English-speaking homes because they are attending a Spanish immersion school together.

Lastly, and most importantly, by modeling to Sabrina that she and I can continue to speak strictly in Spanish even though others may not understand us or that others use both languages simultaneously, I am also showing her how to be more accepting about the diverse ways other people use Spanish and English in our local community here in central Texas. After all, in addition to raising a multilingual baby, I am also trying to develop an awareness and appreciation for cultural, ethnic, economic, and linguistic diversity. This may seem like a huge task, but we have some time in our hands.

{Photo via just jennifer}

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