Bilingual is Better
Feb
16
2009

The Experts are In!

4
Photo by otama

Photo by otama

From conception, both Ana and I knew we wanted SpanglishBaby to become a place where you could come and ask your questions about this fascinating challenge of raising bilingual children. We hoped to be able to do that in an array of ways: posts with valuable and educational information; links to other resourceful sites about bi/multilingualism; our own daily experiences bringing up two bilingual toddlers; and of course, because we don’t have all the answers, advice directly from the mouth of the experts themselves!

That’s why we welcome all your questions–particularly specific ones about the actual process, issues you might be facing right now and wished you could get a direct answer. So, pretty please send your questions our way. We will send them to one of the experts that have so graciously accepted to be a part of SpanglishBaby. Once a week, we will post one question followed by our expert’s answer so that everyone can share the knowledge.

So without further ado, let me introduce our first expert. Her name is Simona Montanari and she is Assistant Professor of Child and Family Studies at California State University in Los Angeles. She is the department’s expert in early multilingual development and has a PhD in Linguistics from the University of Southern California. Simona is Italian and she’s also a mommy to trilingual daughters aged 3 and 4 1/2. In addition, she conducts workshop titled: “How to Raise a Bilingual Child” in the LA area. Bienvenida, Simona. We’re very happy you are a part of the SpanglishBaby family.

And, now for our first question:

I feel like I’m excluding him…

Our first question comes from Mayra Rocha, mom to a 2-year-old boy, who she’s trying to raise bilingual using the OPOL method (one parent-one language) in Miami Beach, Florida. “I speak Spanish, my husband only speaks English and I’m doing my best to speak only in Spanish to my son.  The problem is I feel awkward doing it at home when my husband is around because I don’t want him to feel left out. He hasn’t said anything and since my son is just learning how to speak, I’m mostly worried about later on. How do I handle this?”

Dear Mayra, Think about the amazing gift that you are giving your child when speaking Spanish to him! He will be bilingual (and perhaps bi-literate) as an adult. His bilingualism will open a world of opportunities for him: he will be more likely to do well in school;  will have a better understanding of where you and his family members come from; and he will develop more sensitivity to/tolerance for other cultures. In addition, because of his ability to use two languages, he will be highly valued in the job market. So, does it matter that your husband doesn’t understand everything you’re telling your child? Is it worth it to forgo the endless possibilities of a bilingual upbringing for your child just because your husband doesn’t understand when you’re telling him to put his socks on or turn the TV off? I think your husband will be happy to sacrifice understanding everything that is said between you and your child once he sees that becoming bilingual is in your child’s best interest.

In addition, consider that it takes kids at least three years to become fluent in a language. If you consistently speak Spanish to your child every day around your husband and he’s sufficiently motivated to learn it, he can easily pick up quite a bit of it in three years. I have met many fathers (including my own husband!) who did not speak their wife’s language before their children were born, but learned a great deal of it by overhearing conversations between their wife and their children. Some, like my husband, were so motivated that even took classes in that language and became decently proficient in it. Now, fathers will never end up as bilingual as their children. But, initially, they will be learning the language faster than their children and will be able to make a lot of progress in a just a few years.

So, my advice is, explain to your husband what is at stake and what is likely to happen to both him and his child if you keep speaking Spanish around them. I am sure he will agree that bilingualism is worth the efforts  and sacrifices.

Simona Montanari, Ph.D., is located in the Los Angeles area. For more information or to schedule a phone/in person consultation contact her at smontan2@calstatela.edu.

Do you have a question for our experts? Remember no question is too big or too simple. So, to send us your question, please click here or leave a comment below. Thank you!

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