Today we welcome yet another new expert to our ever-growing Ask an Expert panel. Please welcome bilingual educator and founder of the Boca Beth Spanish learning series, Beth Butler.
Christine, mother to one girl, sent us this question:
“I am very fluent in English and probably about 75% fluent in Spanish. Although I am a native speaker, I lost most of my Spanish when I moved to the US at age 6, and only brushed up once a year on trips back to Central America.
My husband does not speak any Spanish nor do most of my friends. I have been speaking Spanish to my daughter (although there is no accent I am pretty rusty in my vocab) since she was born. I speak Spanish to her all day and then switch to Spanglish once her daddy comes home or when we are with friends. I thought initially this would be enough, but the more I read about raising a bilingual child and the more moms I meet who are trying to raise their children bilingual the more I start to feel that what I am doing isn’t enough. It is tough for me to speak 100% Spanish as my vocab isn’t perfect.
My question: IS WHAT I AM DOING ENOUGH?
Thanks for any advise I can get.”
Any amount of Spanish you speak with your daughter is a gift to her, Christine! Remember that what you are able to do (Spanish AND English) is more than what most parents can do who have command of only one language. Start off being super proud of yourself and feel confident about being your child’s first teacher.
Do you know how well-wired your own brain is for Spanish? Experts agree that getting the neural pathway connections made for language learning before the age of five is the optimum experience, and you, my friend/amiga mía, are there! Now it’s your responsibility to give your daughter this same gift (though from your question, I am not certain how old she is right now.) Using music with the Spanish will help to wire that native language in her little brain. Don’t we all remember learning concepts, facts, languages with songs? This universal language of music does not change and is very powerful in the young child’s learning.
Incorporate Spanish TV while at home with your daughter – not only to expose her to other mediums using Spanish, but this will also allow you to have a daily refresher on your own Spanish vocabulary and grammar. (Personally I watch las noticias/the news to maintain my fluency, but I would not recommend that for you and your daughter’s quality mommy/daughter viewing time.) Check into children’s TV programming by visiting sites such as Sorpresa TV and V-me Niños, and remember that many children’s shows now incorporate some Spanish, such as PBS Kids Dragon Tales.
You want to become more confident in your Spanish, and I would recommend (in addition to your adult Spanish TV of las novelas or las noticias during your alone time!) finding an online Spanish instructional course that features a live exchange of dialogue in Spanish only. I have personally looked into www.myplt.com and know that this type of personal commitment to your native language will help rebuild your confidence level.
Remember what fellow moms and Ph.D.s in linguistics Kendall King and Alison Mackey remind us all of in their book The Bilingual Edge: Rich, dynamic, and meaningful interaction is critical and more important than having a perfect native-speaker model. As parents we are often our children’s very first and most meaningful teacher. Be proud of that job and feel confident in the tools you possess to give your child the best start in life.
Beth Butler is a bilingual educator of young children and strives to create better communication within our increasingly diverse society. She is the founder of the internationally acclaimed Boca Beth language learning series which has garnered various parenting awards.
Ms. Butler lived in Chile and Mexico where she learned Spanish as her second language and has been bilingual and biliterate for more than 30 years. She has spent over 25 years in the field of preschool and elementary education writing and recording four bilingual music CDs in Spanish and English, as well as producing three bilingual educational movies for children. Beth Butler shares her passion for second language instruction with children, parents and educators via interactive children’s concerts, keynotes, workshops, a YouTube Channel and her company’s bilingual product line. Read more about Beth Butler and Boca Beth here.