Motherhood and learning a new language are both hard work. For some RGV moms, however, motherhood may be a great time to start speaking the Spanish language.
Becoming a Non-Native Speaker
I began learning Spanish through highschool and college courses, but I was too embarrassed to speak the language. Although I married a native Spanish speaker after college, I did little to practice my Spanish skills for the next ten years.
Then, I had a baby and became her primary caretaker. When my daughter started saying her first words in English, I knew I had to overcome my fear of speaking Spanish if she was going to be bilingual. Two years later, my daughter speaks almost exclusively Spanish, and my own Spanish skills have improved greatly. I credit a lot of my own personal growth to motherhood and living in the RGV.
Why is motherhood a great time to start speaking Spanish?
Below are four reasons motherhood is a great time for non-native speakers like me to start speaking Spanish.
1. Young children like to read.
Reading aloud to your young child is a great way to practice your Spanish pronunciation and expand your vocabulary. By beginning with board books, you’ll start with very simple text that teaches basic concepts in Spanish. As your child grows, the books become progressively more complex. This progression is slow, however, allowing your Spanish skills to progress as your child’s reading needs progress. Additionally, you have lots of pictures to help you infer the meaning of unknown words.
The benefits of reading to your child are well documented. Make the most of this bonding experience by learning Spanish together at the same time!
2. Young children love media!
Spanish media for young children, such as music and videos, often feature slow rates of speech, clear annunciation, and basic concepts in order to meet the educational needs of their young audience. These same features also meet the needs of someone learning or mastering a second language!
There are also several popular children’s movies available in the Spanish language. Watching these movies in Spanish after having watched the English version makes the language much more accessible, especially if you turn on the Spanish captions.
Engaging in media with you child with will also help you avoid using media as a babysitter. Instead, watching a Spanish video together can be a time to talk with your child (hopefully in Spanish!) about what you are watching.
3. Young children love repetition.
Mothers of young children read the same books, listen to the same songs, watch the same videos, and even answer the same questions over and over. This repetition will help you commit new Spanish language skills to memory. The more you practice saying words aloud while reading the same book, or the more you listen to native speakers through listening to the same song, the more confortable you will become speaking the Spanish words you are hearing.
4. Young children love unconditionally — and are amazing learners!
Young children love their parents unconditionally. While it is intimidating to speak a new language in front of peers, it is surprisingly easy to stumble and make mistakes in front of someone who loves you so unconditionally.
I initially worried my mistakes when speaking Spanish to my daughter might cause her to learn poor Spanish. This has not yet been the case. My daughter hears Spanish from so many sources that she hears the correct use of the language more than she hears my mistakes. I am continually amazed at how well she is learning the language despite my own limitations.
Why is the RGV a Great Place to Start Speaking Spanish?
This one is pretty obvious! We live in a bilingual community, which means almost every outing is an opportunity to expose yourself and your child to Spanish. You likely have a friend who speaks Spanish whom you can text when you’re stuck on a hard-to-translate word. Spanish speaking care providers and preschools are also available. The RGV is home to lots of Spanish churches that offer great programs for children. RGV residents also have free access to many Spanish resources at local libraries, including books, media, and even bilingual story time. The library is a huge resource for non-Native speakers like me!
Is it really that easy to learn Spanish as a mom?
Well, not exactly. Speaking a non-native language leaves you frustrated and mentally exhausted at times. Learning Spanish as you teach it to your young children will be much easier if you have already studied the basics of the language. Even if you have this foundation, mastering a second language is often a life-long task.
Nonetheless, a great way to give your non-native speaking a major boost is by learning Spanish alongside your young child. Take full advantage of the Spanish resources available in the RGV and the simple, repetitious nature of Spanish resources for young children. Even if you and your child don’t become fluent speakers, you will likely improve the Spanish comprehension, speaking, and reading skills of yourself and your child. This will almost certainly be beneficial for a family living in the RGV.
Are you raising your children to be bilingual?
We’d love to hear your advice!