Bilingual is Better

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I have been teaching languages for over five years now. Although I don’t have kids of my own, I spend most of my day helping parents reach the goal of bilingualism for their children, and I listen to all of their complaints. Many parents say that once their kids start elementary school, they refuse to speak Spanish at home. Most parents eventually end up giving up trying because they just want to spend time enjoying their kids rather than fighting.

I remember when we first moved to the U.S, from Peru, maintaining my mother tongue was easy because I am the eldest sibling and I was always raised bilingual anyway so it wasn’t challenging at all. My parents forced us to speak only Spanish at home in an attempt to maintain our culture and language alive. We religiously celebrated both American and Peruvian holidays, and delicious Peruvian smells always came out of our kitchen.

Many years have gone by since we migrated and definitely the smells coming from our kitchen are not the same. Now I am married, working long hours, and I frequently give in to the convenience of ready-to-eat meals. I buy frozen vegetables and I sometimes forget to celebrate Peru’s Independence Day. When I go to visit my parents, I watch my younger sisters chat in English and I wonder what happened to the “No inglés en esta casa” rule.

Maintaining one’s cultural heritage is one of the hardest things to do, not all your friends are able to enjoy your overly spicy food, the strange smells in the kitchen and the insanity of the music. When I go to visit my parents, my sisters barely give me a lame kiss and not even think about a hug. They are the youngest, my brother is still very Latin at heart and loves big hugs and lots of kisses. I miss the warmness of the Latin culture, the richness of the colors and the 3-day national holiday celebrations. We left our countries, but we should never, ever, lose that which is its essence.

You want your kids to speak Spanish, let them get immersed in your culture, its richness, all of its colors. Language is deeply embedded in culture. If they are unable to understand where they come from they will never be able to speak the language properly. A language is much more than mere words; it’s a means to express feelings and beliefs. If your loudness, your warmth, your spices are foreign to your children, then they will never feel comfortable speaking Spanish. Make it fun and let them explore your culture every time you have a chance.

{Image by Shreveport-Bossier: Louisiana’s Other Side}

Karina Torres mountains (2)dreamed of being an archaeologist, a dream that took her to explore and discover many different cultures and visit several countries throughout Central and South America. After graduating college, she moved back to Peru, her home country where she spent her time teaching both English and Spanish to children from very diverse cultural backgrounds. Soon, teaching languages became her new passion. In 2011, she and her partner created a program called Kallpachay with the aim to offer a true bilingual education to families in the Los Angeles area. 

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