Hola Bebe: Raising A Bilingual Child - 5 Fun Ways To Reinforce Non-English Languages
So, we are aiming to raise a fully-fluent bilingual child who (we hope) will speak Spanish as his first language. I myself am a first-gen American and Spanish was my first language. With no need for any ESL-learning or language assistance when I entered grade school, English came with ease at the age of four. Being completely fluent in Spanish has served as a priceless benefit throughout my career, day-to-day and overall life and so naturally it's something that I am determined at all costs to provide to my child.
Growing up, language was pretty much addressed as follows: Spanish at home, English at school; we never spoke English at home. Today, I pretty much have kicked off the same method (for the most part), and while @LittleMrGray's dad isn't fully Spanish-fluent, he who is also a first-generation American; does understand it without issue thus making the mission much easier!
One thing that I do wish however, is that more parents immersed their children in native languages. While I realize it's not easy, I feel that if you're after a goal, you can attain it without limit as long as the right steps are taken, and this is no different. Teaching two languages comes with its challenges, a common one being delayed speech development; not because your child is struggling to speak or has an impediment, but because introducing two languages at once puts the brain to work twice as hard by processing two words for everything instead of one. Therefor, the output of words is often delayed until the latter portion of the toddler stage. That's not a concern to us however. As far as we see it, Gray has a very long life ahead of him with many years to babble!
For those wondering, here's how we have gone about introducing Spanish to our son during his day-to-day:
One Person One Language
- The One Person One Language is the common core of how we are going about our Spanish immersion at home. I speak to our son exclusively in Spanish at all times. Yes, sometimes an occasional English word or phrase may slip up (usually when we're with Dad) but aside from that 98% of my verbal communication is solely in Spanish, while Dad speaks in English. The “one person, one language” approach is a popular method adopted by parents attempting to raise simultaneous bilingual children. Traditionally, the “one person, one language” method has been regarded as the best method for bilingual language acquisition free of mixed utterances. Aside from myself, we also have my mom, who's our son's caretaker; also speaking in Spanish exclusively as well which also serves as additional daily reinforcement.
Spanish Television and Cartoons
- I'm fully aware of the cardinal rules regarding television time and infants and how it should be limited as much as possible, however purchasing the additional Spanish-only package from my cable provider was the best thing I have ever done. Why? Simple...I owe my English skills to television. I grew up in a home where are three and four years old my parent's English speaking skills were little to none. So the actual way that I learned my English was be listening to programs like Sesame Street, Reading Rainbow and Mr. Rogers Neighborhood play in the background on our television. Now today, I've begun implementing the same because I've noticed with friends who have tried to teach their children Spanish, they have often failed once their children take interest in television programs and they're all in English! Our Spanish cable package includes some amazing channels like Discovery Familia and Semillitas which have become staples at home! Not just great programming but the cartoons and shows are actually much more educational and better quality than those that I've seen in English! So even though Grayson isn't locked into the TV all day, we keep the channel running on the television in the background so that he can constantly hear the cartoon characters talking and singing, and he has already even taken preference to some of the songs that belong to certain cartoon
Books & Storytime
While we definitely have an arsenal of Seuss and Eric Carle classics, we have decided to put those on reserve for introduction later and have carefully curated all of our current books on rotation to be in Spanish only. We currently love the primer books from Lil' Libros which teach everything from shapes to numbers, phrases and more all the while taking a spin on classic Spanish nursery rhymes and story tales. Check out their amazing selection of books by clicking here!
- I'm a daughter of a musician and because of it, music has always been an integral part of my making; raising my son is no different! Music is a fun way to integrate Spanish with our son and it already shows! As I noted earlier, Gray will already react and jump for joy to three very specific songs that belong to three different cartoons and it's amazing to watch his face light up when the come on. We love how music is a great tool to use to immerse additional Spanish. Whether it's curating a children's-songs station on Pandora in Spanish only, singing nursery rhymes and gospel songs to him as my mother does, or simply seeking toys that sing catchy and happy melodies; music is definitely leading the way in our efforts!
- We have made sure that all of our interactive and "speaking" toys have settings that allow for switch between the English and Spanish language, or just Spanish exclusively. Check out some of my favorite toys we are using right now:
LeapFrog Learn and Groove Musical Table Activity Center, $29.99 @ Amazon: Grayson received this a Christmas gift and it has become a favorite of ours. Designed for 6+ months, it is an interactive console that also can be set as an activity table, and sings and speaks words, phrases, colors, greetings, numbers and the alphabet in both English and Spanish. We normally keep in on the Spanish setting and currently have it set without the four standing legs. Grayson spends an amazing amount of time pressing and tugging at all of the buttons and gears while listening to it speak and sing to him.
Abuelito Pancho by Baby Abuelita, $18.50 @ Amazon: This is another amazing doll that I plan to keep around for a long time. The company, Baby Abuelita have introduced two singing dolls, Abuelito Pancho and Abuelita Rosa; which resemble to very cute grandparents and are designed to sing the most popular childhood songs and nursery rhymes in Spanish culture! It's not only nostalgic for me to sing along but a great aide to presenting our culture to Grayson.
LeapFrog Habla y Cuenta Smart Phone, $8 @ Hollar - This LeapFrog phone is not only a good distraction from having to hand over mine but it's also a great toy to show Grayson his numbers and various speech phrases. Now, Amazon does have this same phone at $13, but unfortunately it's the English version. I was able to get lucky and scored the Spanish version on Hollar for only $8! (For those who haven't discovered the greatness that is Hollar just yet, click here to sign up and get $2 off your purchase!)
So those are just some but definitely our top five ways that we are implementing Spanish in @LittleMrGray's daily life. Simple, yet effective! I am curious to know however how other parents feel about raising a bilingual child. Do you see it a vital as we do? Or is it not important in your opinion? And, if you're raising, or have raised, a bilingual child; what tips do you have for succeeding the challenges faced? Feel free to sound off in the comments!