5 tips to exercise your bilingual brain

We talk about bringing up our babies bilingual, but what about improving and polishing our own bilingual skills? I have heard many of us say that we don’t live in an area where Spanish is spoken or we have significant others who are not native speakers, so English is the dominant language.

I lived in the UK for six years, where I went months without speaking Spanish. I even found myself struggling to come up with words when I would talk to my mother on the phone. However, when I went on maternity leave (an entire year) my Spanish instantly improved — why? I was with mostly Chilean mamá friends on a daily basis and it was like magic. The words came back, accent got stronger and vocabulary was richer. Not that I really “lost” my Spanish, but you know what they say, if you don’t use it, you lose it.

So here are 5 tips to help keep your bilingual brain fit and healthy:

1. Speak to at least one person each day in Spanish — call your mamá, talk to your kids, talk to the dog, talk to yourself (I do!) — just do it!

2. Write your “to-do” list in Spanish. Sounds simple, but I got into this habit when I was younger and to this day I cannot write my list in English, it must be in Spanish. You use words you may not otherwise and it’s always in front of you.

3. Sing in Spanish! I didn’t listen to much Latin music when I was in the UK. But once I did, it sparked my Spanish skills and just made me happy all over. Music is a great way to practice your tenses “te amaré por siempre” or “te amé”, etc. My non-native Spanish-speaking friends say it has helped them improve.

4. Buy a magazine in Spanish and read it OUT LOUD. It’s not enough to just read because we all sound fluent and amazing in our heads, but actually saying the words, pronouncing each one, repeating the more difficult words and getting used to hearing yourself speak Spanish will increase your fluency and comfort level.

5. Take the reading out loud a step further and record your voice on your smart phone or record a video of you reading a story for your kids. That way you can hear and see yourself speaking Spanish. This will help increase your language speaking confidence!

Remember — practice, practice, practice!

How do you exercise your bilingual brain?

{Photo by Mitchell Bartlett}

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