5 Ways to Bring the Target Language Home

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5 Ways to Bring the Target Language Home

Before having children, I fantasized how easy it would be to raise them speaking Spanish, English and even Mandarin. Although I am not a native speaker, I was confident that my Spanish skills, sheer determination, and obviously my Spanish-speaking husband would propel our household into bilingual bliss.

We began by speaking to our children in (mostly) Spanish, but with both my husband and I working full-time while taking grad classes, their exposure to Spanish was limited. When we adopted my first son from China, our intention was to also integrate some Mandarin: we drove to Chinatown for “Chinese as a Second Language” classes for several years, attending the classes as a family.

Now that my four kids are in elementary school, and English dominates their day (even in after school activities), we look for creative ways to have the kids practice speaking in Spanish, and get a bit of Mandarin as well.

  • We travel abroad during the summers, and enroll the kids in day camps or hire tutors to teach them games and songs. Playing with their counselors and other campers their age has been a wonderful experience, and their learning and appreciation of Spanish has grown tremendously.
  • Skyping with our relatives in Mexico, and letting the kids see and talk to their cousins, grandparents, and tíos has been a wonderful way for our kids to speak Spanish in a comfortable and loving environment, and their excitement is palpable. They love showing off new soccer skills or art projects!
  • Bringing culture and language into our home, we have hosted 2 exchange students: one from Ethiopia (per my Ethiopian’s son’s request!) and currently one from Taiwan (next will be one from Latin America!). Our students have taught us phrases, nicknames, and cultural bits and shared holidays with us and we have really enjoyed the experiences. Even if you can’t host for an entire semester, check with your local university to see about hosting a student for the weekend or just an evening- the students love getting invited into your home for a cultural exchange!
  • Specifically hiring babysitters that speak the target language is something we have only just started to do (and constantly ask “What took us so long!?”). We ask that when she is here with the kids, that she only speak Spanish: playing board games, watching movies, and reading bedtime stories all en español.
  • Make some new friends: almost every weekend we get together with a group of families in our area who all speak Spanish with their kids. Although recently we’ve noticed the kids speaking some English with each other, it is a supportive group from all over Latin America and Spain and we share the same goal of raising bilingual kids. Meet like-minded families on meetup.com, at a bilingual storytime at the library, through a Spanish-speaking church service, or through the grapevine.

{Image courtesy of Becky}

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