Bilingual is Better

“Any resources or advice for non-native speakers teaching their kids while learning themselves at the same time? (or, is that a bad idea?)

I had some Spanish in high school and college and when my son turned one I decided to pick it back up and start teaching him. I have a tutor and my Spanish has improved tremendously over the last year, but now that he’s two I feel like I’ve hit a plateau and he is now soaking up everything! Also, I’m the only one who speaks it, so keeping it up is very hard since I can’t speak to other adults in Spanish.~Kate”

Hola Kate –

I love that you have chosen Spanish as the second language for your son – particularly since you have quite a nice personal history with the language yourself.  (Not to mention that with the latest 2010 Census Stats being released, the second majority language in our United States remains Spanish and is hands-down the 2nd language your son will find himself using on an every day basis.)

You asked for two things – advice and resources.

Let’s go after advice first:

1.    The experts are agreeing that it is just as easy for a child to learn two words for one item as it is to learn only one word.  Weaving in your own knowledge of Spanish vocabulary words and phrases as you go through your day is wonderful for your son’s young brain.  Saying both the English word, then the Spanish word as you encounter an object is highly recommended.

2.    Even when you feel you hit a plateau, know that that is a temporary state.  Adults and children go through various learning phases/stages on their second language journey.  You have taken on the challenge of improving your personal language growth in Spanish while trying to jump-start your son’s!  You are to be congratulated and celebrated (particularly since you have no one else helping your son with his Spanish).

3.    Not knowing your take on allowing TV come into play, I would suggest a little preschool TV in Spanish (see resources below).  The immersion in Spanish via a quality preschool program will be a nice addition to your personal interaction time with your son.

4.    When using your Spanish tutor for your Spanish language development, try often to hold conversations and not simply focus on the grammar, etc of the language.  For example, I used Skype to communicate weekly with my tutor from Costa Rica, and he would have pre-planned discussion themes around news items of the past week.  Using topical discussions keeps the second language real and near to your life.

Now for resources amiga Kate:

1.    I highly suggest reading the book The Bilingual Edge.  This book is written by two moms who are Ph.D.s in linguistics plus they have children of their own who they are raising to be bilingual and trilingual!  They live what they write about.  The book gives hope to us non-native speakers that we CAN give the gift of a second language to our young children – using interaction as the key to our success.

2.   OnLineFreeSpanish is a site that, as your son progresses to using a computer (again, I do not know your home situation and the use of media in your daily routine), will provide him many, many bilingual lessons, downloadable activity and coloring pages.

3.    Use a Google search to find other bilingual resources that will bring together the English and Spanish language for your child in a fun way.  At the age of two, it’s all about making the learning fun.  Music tends to be a much sought after medium for instructing toddlers and preschool age children (retention tends to be longer when music is involved in the learning process).  My own site, BocaBeth, has an abundance of free resources in our area titled Free Bilingual Resources.

My suggestion is to continue to combine your knowledge with the existing resources out there that will make the Spanish learning fun, relevant and practical for your every day routine.  ¡Feliz educando!  Happy Educating!

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