Bilingual is Better

mistake I made raising bilingual child

We all make mistakes, right? Especially along this journey of parenthood, we know that we constantly just don’t know and we try our best every single day. There really isn’t a single parenting manual that is a one-size-fits-all or that’s customized to your particular child and/or parenting journey.

But we do have each other. We have other parents that are open enough to share the good and the bad, the pretty and the ugly, and do it without giving or receiving judgement. We have our stories to tell so others can be inspired or realize that it’s not part of their own journey.

That’s precisely what we’ve done on SpanglishBaby for almost five years: share stories from many diverse voices on how we’re together creating a collective experience of the how-to and how-not-to raise bilingual and bicultural kids. We all know that we must expose our children to Spanish, or the target language, as young as possible. We know that we can’t force them to learn a language, but we can immerse them in ways that it will become part of their self. We know that we want to take this path for so many reasons, but most that have to do with the heart. Yet, the day-to-day is still full of surprises y curvas inesperadas.

I made one big mistake when raising my now 6-year-old girl as a bilingual child and I’ve been wanting to share this with you ever since I realized it. See, I’ve been obsessed with making sure we never, ever, ever spoke English to her and her exposure to English would be elsewhere and plentiful. I knew English would take over and I even called the stage a bilingual “rebellion,” implying my sort of battle at making sure her Spanish flourished beautifully. And that war is pretty much won.

So which battle did I lose? Where was I not strategic enough?

In her pronunciation in English.

In my obsession to make sure she spoke Spanish perfectly and since I had conditioned myself to never speak English to her, I would never correct her when she would mess up the pronunciation or tense of a word in English. I would just ignore it and repeat it en español. Turns out to not have been a very wise choice and I have no problem admitting it because I might not be the only one that made this decision.

Now that she’s in a dual immersion program and her Spanish skills are flourishing, I’m starting to notice more and more that while she’s completely bilingual (yet still in a really Spanglish/code-switching stage), she has so many more words in English that are used in the wrong tense or mispronounced because there hasn’t been a habit to correct her.

I’m not freaking out about this (yet) because I know she’s still developing her language skills overall and she’s really only in first grade, but I wonder if it would have made a difference if I would have not ignored her English completely.

Would love to know if this has happened to you, or if you also currently “ignore” your child’s mistakes in English or your country’s majority language? Please do share and let’s talk about this in the comments below.

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