Bilingual is Better

“I’m raising my daughter bilingually in Spanish and English. Her father is a native Mexican whose first language is Spanish. I speak to her in English. The problem I’m facing is that her father doesn’t really speak to her in Spanish. Instead, I have a nanny that only speaks Spanish to her. My daughter understands both languages equally, but she will only speak the tiniest bits of Spanish, and even insists on speaking English to her non-English speaking nanny. It’s as though she just doesn’t see the need to speak Spanish. How can I encourage my daughter to speak more Spanish? Also, where can I find a list of Dual Language Immersion schools? She’s going to be ready for preschool soon and I don’t want her Spanish to backtrack. Any advice is appreciated!

Thanks,

Rebekah”

Hi Rebekah. I have a very similar problem! My husband is Colombian and we are raising our son bilingually. Unfortunately, since my husband is perfectly comfortable in English as well as Spanish (and I suppose the same is true for your husband), it is very easy for him to slip into English when speaking with our son – especially since our son is more fluent in English and tends to want to speak more English than Spanish. Unfortunately, one of the best solutions for your problem is mainly in the hands of your husband. If you can get him to speak Spanish exclusively to your daughter, you would see her proficiency improve and she might feel more comfortable speaking the language. You don’t say how old your daughter is, but I would guess that her reluctance to speak Spanish doesn’t really have much to do with not seeing the need to speak it. She is most likely just more comfortable/proficient in English. You can also buy books, videos, toys and other materials for her in Spanish as a means of “sweetening the pot!” We offer our son “free screen time” (i.e., extra time on the computer) if he plays games or views videos in Spanish. Some of his favorite sites are:

SuperSaber: http://www.supersaber.com/

Club Penguin (in Spanish only!): http://www.clubpenguin.com/es/

Isla Megatrix: http://www.antena3.com/islamegatrix/

GoGoLingo: http://www.gogolingo.com/

BrainPOP Español: http://esp.brainpop.com/
As for Dual Language Immersion schools, I don’t know what area you live in, but you can research that for yourself with an excellent database from CAL – the Center for Applied Linguistics. The searchable database is called the “Directory of Foreign Language Immersion Programs: and it can be accessed online at: http://www.cal.org/resources/immersion/. Good luck!

Lori Langer de Ramirez.- -Bilingual educator who began her career as a teacher of Spanish, French and ESL. She holds a Master’s Degree in Applied Linguistics and a Doctorate in Curriculum and Teaching from Teachers College, Columbia University. She is currently the Chairperson of the ESL and World Language Department for Herricks Public Schools, New York. Lori is the author of Take Action: Lesson Plans for the Multicultural Classroom and Voices of Diversity: Stories, Activities and Resources for the Multicultural Classroom, as well as several Spanish-language books and texts. Her interactive website (miscositas.com) offers teachers over 40 virtual picture books and other curricular materials for teaching Chinese, English, French, Indonesian, Italian, Spanish and Thai. Her areas of research and curriculum development are multicultural and diversity education, folktales in the language classroom and technology in language teaching. You can read her answers here and submit your own question for any of our experts here.

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