This post is sponsored by Huggies Latino.
As a first-time expectant mother the list of things to think about, prepare for, rejoice in and even panic over seems to be endless. It feels like every day not only brings you closer to holding your bebecito in your arms, but also takes you on that magical roller coaster of new emotions.
When my belly started growing with my little girl and I started talking more and more to her, I realized that I also had the additional burden of figuring out if my Mexican-born husband and I should speak to her in our native language of Spanish or in English. En la casa sólo hablamos español, so I knew that it would be very odd for my husband and I to switch to English with our daughter — it just wouldn’t be natural for us. At the same time, we knew English would be the language she’d absorb from her environment no matter what we did, but we still wondered if that would confuse her.
We weren’t alone in our fears that being exposed to multiple languages early on could confuse our baby. We did later find out that our fear was based on misconceptions and lack of knowledge. The scientific fact is that the earlier we start exposing babies to a second language, the more flexible their bilingual brains will be and the more they can identify and separate the sounds of the different languages they are exposed to.
The first window of opportunity to expose babies to multiple languages is during their first year of life (and even starting in the womb!). Babies should be exposed through rich interactions to the two languages at home so their brains can absorb all the sounds and retain them by the time they turn a year old and this window starts to close.
So, as you get ready for your baby’s much-expected arrival by checking out tools like Huggies Respuestas de Mamá and the very useful Guía Bienvenida a tu Bebé, you should also think about the many ways you could expose your child to as many languages as possible. His brain is wired for it, the rest is up to you. I like to say bilingualism is a gift we give our children that no one can take away from them. Plus, if you start immersing them in Spanish right now, they won’t be able to complain or rebel against it — it will just be a natural process.
While raising completely fluent bilingual kids is a commitment and takes a real conscious effort, there are relatively simple ways to kick start the baby’s language exposure even before she’s born.
1. Talk as much as you can. Talking to your baby in the womb and as a newborn is one of the best ways to bond with him. He’s getting used to your loving voice and it gives him comfort. If you or your partner speak Spanish, make sure that you speak it to him a lot. Talk about anything, sing, read, recite a poem — ¡lo que sea! What’s important is that he’s absorbing the sounds of the language and recognizing them from you.
2. It takes a village. Start scoping out your family, friends and community and see who can also provide the necessary language exposure to your child. Abuelas and abuelos that speak Spanish are such a blessing to have. Make sure you make them aware of your wishes and have them become your bilingual accomplices.
3. Stock up on Spanish-language books, toys, music and games. If you’re still being showered with gifts or just starting to plan your registry, make sure you also include some books, music and toys in Spanish to start building your immersive and fun arsenal.
Share: When did you start exposing your child to Spanish or your second language? How did you do it?
Yes! I tried to speak only Spanish to my baby during my pregnancy, I am convinced he understands!
He does!!! And it’s a great tip for parents using the OPOL method when the dad is the one that speaks Spanish so he can read or just blabber to the baby bump in Spanish!
Great post, Ana! I’ve started to talk to my babies as early as I could feel them. I was in the commenting mode a lot of time: “Mommy is going to go for a walk” or “Let’s go get something to eat” or “You are so active today, my baby”. Singing to them was a big thing too!
Thanks for the note, Olena!
Love the “commenting mode”! It’s definitely a good idea to just talk to them anything that comes to mind. Reading and singing also work
Yes, reading is huge!
I’m looking forward to trying this with my little one when he is here. My only concern is that I will be the only one speaking Spanish to him because Dad only knows English and a little bit of Greek – the same goes with the family that we have near by. Also, I hope baby will not be confused when I speak English to dad. I hope my speaking Spanish to him mostly will benefit him, that way he’ll be ready for Nana when we visit them.
You’ve got a great plan in place already and it’s very effective. It’s known as the One Parent One Language (OPOL) method and it works really well if you stick to it.
Make sure your little one (felicidades!) thinks you can only speak Spanish to him. If you do this consistently starting now, it will be just the way it is for him.
He’ll quickly grasp that dad speaks English and you speak Spanish and he’ll sort it out.
It will definitely benefit him!
Muchas gracias! As I mentioned below, I was was feeling pretty confident, but there was always doubt in the back of my mind. This little guy will already grow up in a very diverse family – he will be Mexican Greek American and that is very exciting for me. We have already been preparing by buying alphabet blocks in Greek and Spanish and as many books as we can find even our favorite books that are in English. I’m looking forward to meeting him and starting this journey!
Joanna, ¡no te preocupes! Todos los parientes que viven cerca de nosotros hablan inglés y mi esposo habla exclusivamente en inglés. Yo he hablado el español con mi hija desde que estaba en mi pancita. Cumplirá 2 años este jueves y habla MUCHO en ambos idiomas. Nos gusta jugar un juego en que nombro un pariente o amigo de la familia y le pregunto cuál idioma habla. Por ejemplo, le digo “¿Tu Grandpa dice TORTUGA o TURTLE?” o “¿La Titi Paola dice TREE o ÁRBOL?” Es increíble que ella ya puede distinguir quién habla español y quién habla inglés. Mucha suerte con tu bebé!
Noelle, que linda idea lo del juego! Me encanta!
¡O, gracias! Aveces la duda no se me sale de mente. Me han dicho y he leído que los bebés absorben dos o más idiomas mas fácil si se comienza temprano y te sorprendaras en lo pronto en que aprenden a distinguir idioma(s). Me preocupava andar con tanto Inglés alrededor de nosotros – pero parece que todo va a estar bien. Gracias por la confianza! Eso me hizo sentir mejor. Ésperamos a nuestro hijo a finales de noviembre Tambien me gusta la idea del juego!
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