Why Do We Teach Our Children Spanish - spanglishbaby.com

I read with great interest the Wall Street Journal article featured in Spanglishbaby’s Week in Links regarding parents who move to China so that their children can learn and improve their language abilities. Learning another language and experiencing another culture can be a great experience for anyone, and it is especially valuable for children who tend to have an advantage at second language acquisition.

The question that I was left with after reading the article was: Why Chinese? None of the parents featured in the article actually spoke the language themselves, but rather, Chinese was viewed as the desirable language to learn because of China’s rising global influence. The interest in learning Chinese seemed to be linked, at least in some part, with giving kids a competitive edge in the job market of the future.

This article made me re-examine my own motives for teaching my children Spanish. While like any parent I want to give my children skills that will be beneficial to them in the future, I want to be sure that my motivations for teaching my kids Spanish involved more than financial gain and career success. Fortunately, Roxana had interviewed me for the book she co-wrote with Ana, Bilingual is Better on this very topic back in February. It was interesting to reflect back on my answers after having read the Wall Street Journal Article. I liked seeing that there really are a lot of factors that have influenced my decision to raise bilingual children.

To begin with, unlike the parents featured in the article, I do speak the language that I want my children to learn. I have always loved learning languages, and it only seemed natural to pass on my skills to my children. Having learned my languages later in life, it was a real challenge for me to become truly fluent. I didn’t want my children to struggle the way I did when they could avoid this difficult language learning process by acquiring the language when they were young. From a neuroscience prospective young children have superior language learning abilities.*

My children and I also have a lot of fun speaking Spanish together, reading and playing with the other children in our Spanish playgroup. It has been a worthwhile endeavor to see how easily my kids can use their different languages and they truly seem to enjoy speaking with mami in Spanish, papi in German, and grandma in English.

Like the parents in the article, I am committed to raising my children to speak another language since there are a variety of cognitive benefits associated with bilingualism. Even more importantly, speaking other languages is essential for gaining a deeper understanding of other countries, peoples, and cultures. I feel that speaking another language will increase my children’s opportunities to know and interact with a variety of different people and provide them with the linguistic skills and cultural understanding to more fully participate in our local community and in our increasingly international society. When we travel to Spanish speaking countries, my children easily make friends and are able to participate in the games of the local children. It is wonderful to see them get to know people and play with children that they would not have had the chance to bond with if they had been monolingual.

My husband and I have always loved traveling and learning languages, and it has been fun sharing our interests and adventures with our own children. They seem to be enjoying the experience as well. It is easy to answer the question: Why Spanish? By teaching my children Spanish I am giving them the gift of another language that will help them in both their personal and career endeavors. I am also giving them the opportunity to get to know other peoples, countries and cultures, and hopefully I am giving them the chance to explore language and just have fun with it.

Why do you teach your children Spanish?

*From Welcome to Your Child’s Brain by Sandra Aamodt, PhD and Sam Wang, PhD.

{Photo by  Ha-Wee}

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