Bilingual is Better

“Will it be a good idea to talk to my children in English even though it is not my native language? I live in Spain and I understand the importance of learning English. I am going to have a baby soon, and I am considering to talk to her in English, but I am afraid this might not be a good idea since it is not my native language. I think that I have a good level of English and I want to help my baby learn it easily. But I also understand that since it is not my native language, I will probably have some lack of language resources. Can you please help me and give me your opinion?

Thank you very much.

Irene”

¡Hola, Irene! This is a good question, and one that I often struggle with as a non-native speaker – and teacher – of Spanish. I think the question for you is how committed are you to English? In a couple in which one parent speaks one language and the other speaks another, the prevailing wisdom recommends that each parent speak the native tongue, thus producing a balanced bilingual. If you have someone else in the home who will be speaking Spanish with your child and you wanted to be in charge of speaking English, that would be fine – but it would take a strong commitment on your part to speaking exclusively English. If you were to only speak English from time-to-time with your child, it would likely not be enough to produce any real proficiency in the language – especially since everything around you (i.e., the media, family, friends) will be in Spanish.

A dear friend of mine (also a non-native speaker of Spanish) has made this commitment to her son. She speaks with him 100% of the time in Spanish. The child is now four and it is becoming harder and harder for her to keep up with Spanish, especially given all the English to which the child is exposed to in pre-school, on TV, in the environment, etc. If you have good proficiency, and you are committed to being the sole source of English for your children, then go for it! I would recommend stocking up on a lot of picturebooks, music, videos, movies, toys, games, websites and other resources in English. This will help you to have conversations, play and have other social interactions with your child in English.

¡Buena suerte!

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