Bilingual is Better

I’m trying to raise bilungual kids as well. I have a 4yr old daughter and a 1yr old son. I feel like a total failure when it comes to my daughter speaking Spanish. She’s fallen behind and she’s also extremely strong willed so it’s tough for me to teach her. She understands Spanish and will say single words. As for forming sentences, well that’s the issue. I know the best way for her to learn is by applying games and making it fun. I just don’t know what kind of games will help her and my son. My wife only speaks English, but she does help me out by repeating words I say. She does a pretty good job (we’re both from Miami so she’s done well understanding and repeating words). Both my kids have Spanish books but the English books around here outnumber the Spanish. I play Spanish songs and she loves them. But it’s still not enough. My big concern is that I’ve missed the window for her to roll her ‘r’ properly. She can’t do that yet. Is there still a chance for her? What books, games, songs, tv can I show them? I’m thinking about getting a tutor to help her but haven’t started looking yet. I really appreciate your time.

Thank you,

Frank

Hi Frank,

I hear your frustration… I can assure you that you are anything but a failure – you have only just begun the long journey of raising bilingual kids! So don’t give up…!

If it’s any consolation, I had a similar struggle with my son when he was around 3-4 years-old. His receptive language was very good (i.e., he understood practically everything in Spanish), but his productive language was limited. Not only that, but he actively refused to speak in Spanish, and he resisted reading or watching TV in Spanish. I can tell you that now, at 8 years-old, he is doing MUCH better (you can see for yourself by viewing some of Niko’s videos in Spanish on our YouTube channel).

How did this transformation happen? I wish I could say with certainty. I will tell you that we just kept on speaking to him in Spanish, reading in Spanish (when he wasn’t too resistant), and exposing him to the language on TV and in movies. At some point he started to identify with my husband’s Colombian culture (he told a classmate on the school bus that he was Colombian!), and even using Spanish words here and there. Productive language continues to be a challenge, so two years ago we enrolled him in a heritage language Spanish school on Saturdays (he doesn’t love it, but that’s ok!)

With your children, the key is patience and consistency. It’s best not to show your frustration if your kids resist your efforts. I found it better to use “tricks” like reverse psychology (i.e., “I am so glad I get to read this great book all by myself!”) and pick and choose your battles. You can also access many excellent online games and videos. Here’s a quick list (you can access my entire collection on my Delicious bookmark page or on my website):

Your daughter’s accent can be improved with more access to hearing the language. It is not too late for her to develop a native-like accent. I can’t tell from your post, but it seems as if you are the native speaker of Spanish and your wife is a native English speaker. If this is the case, you should speak Spanish to your kids, and your wife can speak in English. According to research, this is the best way to develop a balanced bilingual. If you speak to her mainly in Spanish, you shouldn’t need to hire a tutor.

I hope this helps, Frank. You can do this! Stick with it and you’ll see the results. Buena surety!

Lori

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