Bilingual is Better

My son is 18 months old, and he’s been in daycare since he was 4 months. His daycare is mostly English, but they also do sign language.  At home we speak 90%+ Spanish, but we work full time. My struggle: his vocabulary is expanding and it’s becoming a lot harder to focus on Spanish at home when he comes home saying “hat” and pointing, or “ball,” etc. We are so excited to hear these new words but want to reinforce Spanish by pointing to the objects and referring to them in Spanish. My concern is that his vocabulary may be more advanced and we are slowing down his speech development by not “practicing” at home. I’m 100% committed to Spanish at home but my husband, on the other hand, is jumping for joy when he hears a new word and starts speaking to him in English because it’s easier. How can I convince him to stay focused on Spanish? Are we hurting our son’s development? Please help. Is 2-3 hours per day of Spanish enough or should i just drop it?

Dear Mayra,

First, congratulations! You have been giving your son a great gift by exposing him to Spanish since he was a baby. But if you stop now, he might lose the Spanish, so please don’t. Children who learn a second language before age six have a much better accent and chance at fluency, plus it’s great for their memory and analytic skills. You should definitely keep speaking Spanish to him at home. He will get plenty of English at his day care; use your time with him to reinforce the Spanish.

It has been proven in studies that learning a second language does not have a negative impact on learning English. In some, but not all cases, children can have a mild delay in their “expressive” English (speaking it) but there is no delay in their “receptive” English (what they understand) and they always catch up in both languages by age 4 or 5.

You might consider one of the proven ways to raise a bilingual child called OPOL – One Parent One Language. If you use this method, you speak only in Spanish to your son, and your husband speaks only in English and so long as you are consistent, your son will master both. Buena suerte and keep up the Spanish, your son will thank you later!

Best,
Julia Pimsleur Levine

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