My daughter has been attending her dual immersion school in Spanish for almost three months now and I can honestly say she’s made a lot of progress. I think the most noticeable improvement has been in her increased self-esteem and the value she’s now given to speaking Spanish. She tries much harder to complete sentences in Spanish and doesn’t get frustrated when I nudge her to speak it.
My husband keeps insisting that she’s speaking way too much English and he’s not sure she’ll be speaking fluent Spanish with us anymore. I always disagree and ask him to perceive the small details that have changed. Things like her asking us to put the Spanish option on when she watches Phineas and Ferb or Doc McStuffins on Disney Junior, something that was seriously not happening months, even days, before school started. She also asks us which of her books are in Spanish so that we can read those for her at night. Not only that, I notice many new words that were not part of her vocabulary that she’s now throwing in the mix of her mostly-Spanglish phrases.
And that’s what her “language” really is right now at this stage – a mix of Spanish and English – but not the kind to shudder at. What I mean is that the words she uses are said correctly in each language, she’s just mixing words from both languages into one sentence.
Read: My Daughter is Not as Bilingual as I Thought
I was noticing this a lot more this weekend after her friend came to play. It always seems like it takes her a while to switch back from English-only mode when she’s with friends, to trying-to-speak-Spanish mode with her mom and dad. At that moment it dawned on me that every time I’d make her repeat in Spanish whatever she was so excited to tell me about (and she’s notorious for non-stop chatter!), she had to make an effort to “grab” the words she needed.
What I realized is that even though she’s making tremendous progress at school, and her love for Spanish and the fact she’s bilingual is at an all-time high, we still need to make a lot more effort at making sure Spanish is front and center in her life and her brain. Her receptive Spanish-language skills are perfect, yet she’s lacking in her expressive skills.
Read: 5 Ways to Motivate Your Child to Speak Spanish When he Refuses to
My conclusion of this is that we definitely need to immerse her a lot more in situations where she will need to express herself in Spanish. She needs to use the words much more without having to think about them. I know they are all there because they eventually come out, but it needs to become a fluid process.
I’m not worried about it happening, but it did make me realize that raising a bilingual child is definitely a work-in-progress that requires many tools in the toolbox. Not the same tools will work for all since every family is different and unique, but we do all need an arsenal of tricks until we find what works best for our kids.
Share with me in the comments below what you do that works the best. What bilingualism stage is your child at?
Ana, thank you for posting this update about your daughter in school. I can’t tell you how many times people have said to me “but don’t you think it will be hard for her (my daughter) since she doesn’t know how to speak Spanish?” when I tell them we are going to put her in a Spanish immersion school. Mostly from my family too . They support me trying to teach her Spanish but not so much the school part. So to hear at least one good experience helps put my own doubts aside. Right now I’m just trying to keep her self-esteem up by not pressuring her. I will tell her though that we both have to use specific words on certain days ONLY. That way she doesn’t feel intimidated or shuts down from talking completely since she can’t speak Spanish in full sentences. We use words she already knows and then add and practice another new word. I can’t wait for her to start school. It’s going to be an interesting experience for the both of us for sure .
Oh, Stephanie, if you have a dual immersion school option don’t even doubt it! All the research proves how effective they are, but it definitely takes a committed parents, teachers and staff for it to work.
We love, love, love our school and the program.
The children learn about culture, languages and eventually outperform academically. You will find so many success stories just by speaking to other parents. I’m here to encourage you any time!
I agree with your conclusion! Adrian is also speaking too much english for what i thought after being in his Full spanish immersion. The thing is, he does speak lots of spanish all day at school but when he plays with friends is english, even talking to me is a lot of english. So having them in more spanish only environments so that they HAVE to express themselves in spanish I think will help! Now to plan for that!
I know! Their language of play is completely in English. Remember when Camila would talk to Adrian in Spanish and he’d respond in English? No more!
Let’s take them to Mexico for a month! jaja!
Thanks for the update on your daughter. I find it very interesting and I also agree with your conclusion. It’s definitely a work in progress!!
My son is 3 years old and he started an English only preschool in August. He was first exposed to English in preschool, so naturally my husband and I were a bit concerned how he would adjust. We are pleasantly surprised to see how fast he is picking up the English (frankly, it also scares us! incredible). Anyhow, my husband and I only speak Spanish at home. And as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, even though we are both Spanish speakers, our dominant language is English and our relationship was in English. But once we got married, we started speaking only Spanish at home since we knew we wanted our kids to speak Spanish. So we do the Minority Language at home.
When my 3 year old son started preschool, he knew his letters, shapes and numbers. He also knew the phonics of each letter. We just had his parent teacher conference, and the teacher commented how impressed she was with him and his transition into English. She said that the reason he’s picked up the English so fast is because he’s basically “translating” everything he’s learned. The fact that we built that foundation for him (learning the letters, numbers, etc) allowed him for an easy transition because he didn’t have to learn both the concept and the language – here he already knew the concept but only translating it. Anyhow, not sure how true this is, but it made sense to us and it made us glad to know he started with such a strong foundation of letters and numbers. Our other son is 16 months and he already knows the alphabet so we hope he also shows this type of progress when he begins preschool at age 3.
What we find strange now is that he is starting to pronounce some of the Spanish words as though he is trying to speak English. It’s frankly hilarious and once we correct him, he switches back. Since we only speak Spanish at home, it’s easy for him to switch back. All of his books and the limited television he receives is in Spanish so I think that helps too.
Definitely appreciate your update and keep us posted! I’m curious as to how my son will do once he gets older and the exposure to English increases!
What a great story! Yes, it’s proven that once a child learns the basics of reading or any other skill, he is able to translate that into the new language. That’s pretty much the premise of dual language immersion schools and why children learn first in the minority language and then transfer the skills to English when they advance in grades.
You’re definitely at the critical stage because now he’ll be a lot more exposed to English because of preschool, but mostly because of the other kids. That’s what I find becomes the biggest challenge because their language of play truly becomes English. Definitely continue to immerse him in as many fun scenarios in Spanish as you can! You’re doing a great job.
Thank you for this post! I definitely agree that raising a bilingual child is always a work in progress, and that is even more the case when more languages come into play. I always enjoy reading about your girls’s progress, and I’m so happy that you found a way to include both of the languages in her daily life. My girls grow up with three languages, and my elder chose German (our family language) as her favourite right now, even though she has phases where she picks a language and works on it. I hope this will be Polish (my native tongue) soon. Luckily, we’re spending holidays in Poland and I’m researching ways for her to hear it more. My second one has just started to speak, and I’m curious how her language development will be. And while we’re making progress, also in Polish, I feel that my work will never be done. But that’s a good thing, this way I can always challenge myself to learn new things, to be creative and to find new ways of including more Polish into our everyday life. But reading posts like yours is extremely inspiring and proves- yet again, that this can be done, and that it benefits our children, immensely!
It can definitely be done and it´s reading comments like yours that inspire me even more! Polish and German? Nice!!!
Thank you for your kind reply! Yes, Polish (me), German (husband) and Dutch (we live in the Netherlands). The way I see it I will have to work the hardest to make her speak Polish as it is the language that is not perceived well in the Netherlands, and it’s our family language. I enjoy reading this blog a lot, and will definitely come back for more updates and great articles!
¡Hola Ana! Long time no talk . With my own son in a 3rd grade Dual Language class, and teaching in Spanish all day in my own Kindergarten Dual Language class, I find that both of us are tired at the end of the day, and our whole family connects in English, with minimal Spanish. In the the last five years of working with Dual Language, I’ve observed that children are not inclined to produce the “target language” in contrived situations. The closest place we can get to “language immersion” without either being in the country of the target language or being in a home whose primary language is other than English, IS an immersion classroom. Parents often are concerned that their children are not producing (which is one of the LAST things we do in second-language acquisition), but I see them produce in my classroom, but only because you HAVE to. I will not speak to ANY of my students in English, so somehow, through pointing, gesturing or having a friend translate, they do communicate with me in the Target Language. Parents are often relieved because they are not seeing this at home. The Spanish-speaking families complain that their children do not speak English to them at home and are therefore concerned that their children are not learning English. Their children do not speak English to them at home because they don’t speak English! My son always surprises me when he comes across a Spanish-speaking friend or family member, because quite suddenly, he engages in conversation with them, that he has NEVER engaged in with me. When I’ve asked him why he doesn’t carry on long conversations with me in Spanish, he answers, “Because you speak English, Mom.” The primary grades seem to be the years of receptive learning, with students taking it all in. Ideally, teachers are specially trained through the primary years, but especially in the intermediate years, to create specific tasks and contexts for children to orally produce in the target language, therefore, approximating native-like fluency as they approach 5th/6th grade. Anyway. I just shared this article on our Dual Language Facebook page. You all are always an inspiration. ¡Un abrazo fuerte! Angelina
Hi Ana, thanks for your post, it’s made me think of our own experience. In our case, however, Isabel (now 5) has been attending Kindergarten in a French Immersion school. So, she’s been raised trilingual. In the last weeks I’ve been concern with “how much” she is really learning. I thought she was getting behind in reading in English (and of course Spanish) in comparison to her friends at her previous (English only) school. I understand some French but I’m not a French speaker, so for me to encourage reading in French at home is proven hard. However, the other day, she surprised me. She was watching TV and I heard some singing. I asked her who was singing and she said “DoRa” with a strong guttural R sound. At first I was like “what?” and she repeated pronouncing Dora with a French accent. Later, we were doing some color by number activity (with the colors in French) and she started coloring correctly. To my surprise, she was reading the colors in French. I didn’t know she could do that. I’ve also noticed that she is speaking more Spanish with her dad, while the 2 of us keep using mostly English (and our own Spanglish). So, I am not concern anymore. I think that her literacy abilities will increase with time and that having to deal with three languages in her everyday life is a challenge that I think she is accomplishing successfully.
Ana, so many times we as parents get frustrated with the process because it might be different from our own language acquisition. Thanks for sharing this. My daughter is in the same boat. She’ll be starting at a dual language school next august and I can’t wait to see her progress. Over all I think we just need to remember to keep at it and not get discouraged. I spoke only Spanish when I started Kindergarten and it was the only language spoken at home yet once I started school I struggled to find the words so that my Spanish was fluid. My cousins in MX used to say that speaking to me was like playing charades. I’d try to describe the things that I couldn’t find a word for in Spanish. If I think back to my learning process and realize where I am now it might make it easier to not get discouraged with my daughters learning process. Overall I think we just need to remember to keep at it and not get discouraged despite any of the many challenges we will face in this language journey.
I loved as much as you will receive carried out right
here. The sketch is tasteful, your authored material
stylish. nonetheless, you command get bought an nervousness over that you wish be delivering
the following. unwell unquestionably come further formerly again as exactly the same nearly a lot often inside case you shield this increase.
Thank you a bunch for sharing this with all of us you actually recognize
what you’re talking about! Bookmarked. Kindly additionally talk over with
my website =). We can have a link change agreement among us