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Raising Bilingual Children

Raising Bilingual ChildrenI still remember the first serious conversation I had with my husband about raising children. He asked me for one thing, “I want our children to be bilingual.” Thirteen years later, I still struggle with this request. I spoke very little Spanish growing up, so needless to say, I do not speak it as well as I would like.

Yes, I understand it perfectly, I can read it, write it and carry on a conversation; however, I still get my verb tenses confused. My husband on the other hand can speak Spanish beautifully. I admire how he is able to converse with his Spanish speaking clients flawlessly. Through him, I see how important it is to speak dual languages and how beneficial it would be to our children when they are older.

It is a challenge in our home to speak two languages because I get lazy and speak English all day. Luckily for me, our eldest daughter, who speaks great Spanish, reminds us all to practice our Spanish. Although all four children speak Spanish, it is my goal to make them proud of their heritage and truly be bilingual.

The internet offers a variety of different strategies to help speak dual languages in your home.  First, I feel the decision to speak dual languages in your home should be shared by both parents.  It is important to support one another and be united in front of the children when you explain the expectations.  Be prepared for the kids to complain or show resistant to speaking Spanish or what ever language you choose at first.  Being a mom of four, I have learned different tactics to encourage my children to do things they may not necessarily want to do.  For example, if they make their bed all week and keep their room clean, I will take them to see a movie over the weekend.  I used the same concept for speaking Spanish at our home.

With help from the kids, we created a “Challenge Board” on a plain cork board. The ultimate goal was pinned to the middle of the board.  SPEAK MORE SPANISH  The kids then came up with a reward, a family trip next summer!

With the challenge and the reward set, the next step was to come up with different strategies to facilitate the process and pin those to the board as well.  Some examples were; read Spanish books, say your prayers in Spanish, watch TV in Spanish, find a Spanish speaking pen pal and write to them, get a Spanish tutor, play games in Spanish and listen to Spanish music. It is important to keep it fun and empower you children to write different ideas they think might work to reach their ultimate reward.

For starters, we found great children’s books in Spanish at Barnes and Noble and we changed the Disney Channel on cable to Spanish language.  Our first goal is to begin to speak the language one hour every evening.  Slowly but surely add addition time and days.  For example, speak English Monday, Wednesday and Fridays and Spanish Tuesday and Thursdays.

Although this sounds very challenging, I intend to go very slow and make sure the children enjoy their commitment because ultimately, I want them to be happy they learned a new language and not resent me for forcing it on them.  Building a support network with other friends and family is also very important.  You will benefit from their knowledge as well as their failures.  Most importantly, you can support and encourage one another.

Our challenge began with the new school year.  With a lot of love, patience and guidance, our long term commitment goal of speaking Spanish fluently in our home will be reached.

If you have any other suggestions to add to our Challenge Board, please share them with our readers.  Also, the Challenge Board concept can be used with any goal you may want to set.  Select a goal with your family and use the visual board to encourage them to follow through.  Good luck and remember, praise, praise and praise some more!  Encourage your children to succeed!

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2 Responses to Raising Bilingual Children

  1. Amy September 16, 2014 at 12:17 pm #

    Thank you Rina! Great advice. We have been struggling with this at home and you offered some great tips.

  2. Rina Gonzalez September 16, 2014 at 4:07 pm #

    Thank you Amy!

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