Chapter Three of “Bilingual is Better”

If you have been following the Multicultural Kid Blog Book Club, it is time for chapter Three of “Bilingual is better.”

In this chapter Anna narrates her very natural acquisition of English in a Spanish environment.  Both authors were brought up in Latin America attending to Dual Immersion Schools.  Now, (the authors) as mothers bringing up children in an English speaking environment had to have a plan of action to make bilingualism happen in their children. Both Latino authors have Spanish speaking husbands, which made it best to use the Minority Language at Home (ML@H) method for their children.

The chapter also explains the different methods of raising bilingual kids along with the Pros and Cons of each one of these.  Minority Language at Home (ML@H), One Parent – One Language Method (OPOL) and the Place and Time Method (P&T).  The testimonies from bilingual families give a very interesting perspective of each method and help the readers to decide which one fits their needs best.  The chapter also has help, and strategies to guide you in the process of designing the right plan to raise your bilingual baby.

Personal Reflections

When the book, came out, I made sure to get it.  I remember reading this chapter, shaking my head and thinking “en Buena hora”.  To tell you the truth I have Spanglish Children, my blog is called Spanglish House.  Our bilingual story has had its ups and downs and many adjustments and changes in the process.

When our first son was born we decided that our son would be bilingual.  We started to use One Parent One language method. I spent 80% of the time with our baby, so baby’s exposure to English was somehow limited.   Later on, life brought us to start our own business with hubby working from home, by then, baby #2 was in the picture. OPOL method was just perfect for us.  That worked for a few months until my English speaking in-laws and our family started to live under the same roof.  Our Spanglish Home was becoming a Home where the only Spanish speaking was me.  OPOL started to fail and ML@H was not working either, in our house the majority speak in English.  At first I had to constantly switch to English in order to speak to my in-laws and too much switching was really affecting my speaking.  Also, my mother in law has a very grammatical brain so she kept correcting my mistakes in English. While this challenged me to work on perfecting my English!  It was really hard to stick to the plan of speaking to my kids in the minority language, but I did.

Bolivian FamilyCurrently with our unique circumstances of homeschooling and living with my American in-laws I would say we use a combination of OPOL with P&T.  Also I try to live my Bolivian culture as much as I can.  Our family loves Hispanic heritage, we are a Bolivian-American family, and yes our kids have 2 last names.  We Skype with my parents frequently, the children are able to converse with them in Spanish and it has helped them to build stronger bonds. Their brains are bilingual, they just need immersion to start speaking fluently. I believe el Español has given us unity and independence as a family.

Lines that spoke to me, this chapter really spoke to me in a personal way.   I cannot copy the whole chapter, but I invite you to get the book and read it.  It gives one a lot of insight about your plan and strategy to follow, along with encouragement needed to make bilingualism happen.

“The fact that it was an organic and almost unplanned process for me to become bilingual, biliterate and bicultural also made me naive as to the idea of needing to have a plan with my own daughter.  The fact had never crossed my mind before conceiving her.  Now I know how truly lucky I was to be given the gift of two languages”

“We realized that bilingual and bicultural families cannot all be painted with the same brush. Aside from the reasons we all have for exposing our kids to another language, every household is different as to how language and culture is treated within its doors.”

“A truly simple, but often overlooked thing to remember is that you should stick to speaking the minority language no matter what.  However, please keep in mind that this journey of raising bilingual children goes through all kinds of stages –depending on your kids’ ages, so don’t despair and keep at it!  

About ML@H, “it is important to point out that neither you nor your partner have to be native speakers of the target language you’ll be using exclusively at home…… as long as you are both fluent in the minority language, this method will work for you.”     

About OPOL “Parents should never give up using this method because, as long as you are consistent, your kids will pick up on the language quickly.”

About P&T “However, it is also the one method that requires the most planning, consistency and attention to detail, if done consciously.”

Plan of Action, I completely agree with the three strategies proposed by the authors to raise a bilingual baby. Just keep speaking (habla, habla, habla!) the minority language, stick to your plan, and commitment are key to reach the goal.

So, our plan of action is,

  • Continue to speak to the kids just in Spanish, out of School hours.
  • Increase more Spanish in our school day.
  • Sábados will be all in Spanish, and yes that includes them speaking in Spanish.
  • Hang out with more Spanish speaking friends. We do not have many, but probably it is time to find more.
  • When “they can’t hear me”, as my three year old says. I must keep speaking in Spanish without translations.
  • Go home more often, to see our Bolivian side of the family.
  • More skype con primas, tios and abuelitos.

How about you? Do you struggle raising bilingual babies? Do you have a strategy? Do you follow a plan?

Post your ideas in the comments below or follow the conversation on our Google+ Community. You can also link up your blog post about this chapter.

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8 thoughts on “Chapter Three of “Bilingual is Better”

  1. I really like the way you’ve brought together so many of the different methods of raising kids bilingually that were mentioned in this chapter. I thought that it was written in a really engaging way that helped to demonstrate the range of different strategies that exist as well as the fact that some may be more easier/relevant than others depending on your family’s language situation.

    I think it’s really important to map out the range of options in this way as I’ve heard a few people talk in a way that suggests that they see ‘One Person, One Language’ as the only way to bring up kids bilingually. I’m sure it’s going to work for a lot of people, and it’s more or less what my wife and I are doing, but it’s important to show that it’s not the only way to do things.

    • Jonathan, I am glad you like the article, I thought that this chapter was written for me! I had to change strategy as my kids grew and according to our circumstances. It has not been easy but I really want it to happen. Yes map out your options and see which one works better for you, OPOL seems very effective if both parents are equally close to the kid (s), or at least the same amount of time. I had a reader that made me notice that the word maternal tongue (referring to first language) comes from the mother being more in contact with the kids than the father. I am sure that is not the only way, I was really impressed with the family that used P&T to be able to handle three languages!

  2. Thank you for a great post and such an inspirational story! We are only starting on a second language with my daughter. And can’t agree more: the biggest challenge is commitment and consistency in using the minority language. That’s why it helps so much to get an inspiration from the stories like yours.

    • Laura, they say that the fun is in the journey, and it is. I think, establishing a routine and not forgetting the goal is key, I want to be able to look back and say, :”bien hecho, lo logramos”

  3. Great post – thanks! Fascinating to hear everyone’s journeys toward bilingualism. It seems particularly challenging to raise bilingual kids in a home with monoligual in-laws. My parents and my husband’s parents (and my husband and I too) are all monolingual. While the grandparents support the idea that our kids are in a Spanish-immersion program and we’re aiming for them to be bilingual, their expectations are sometimes frustratingly low. For example, if we are in a Mexican restaurant and I say “You need to speak Spanish”, the waiter will usually say “Hola, como esta?” and my daughter will reply “muybiengraciasyusted” faster than a hiccup. Then the grandparents glow and say “Wow that’s great” and go back to letting them order in English. Now, in 1st grade they could do better than that … they are now in middle and high school and fluent! So I think there will always be an unspoken battle between a generation that grew up without really understanding bilingualism and a generation that (hopefully) is growing up valuing it. My kids, for example, gravitate right away to the new kid who doesn’t speak English and they’re patient … they’ve been there. And, when they are grandparents, I think they’ll expect that their grandchildren can speak in at least two languages. Thanks again for a fun and thought-provoking post.

    • Ashley, I love learning from other people experiences with bilingualism. In our home the grandparents issue is definitely not helping much in their Spanish. It has helped in my English though :). I think it has to do with change and seasons, and with the New face of America. They see new mixed generations coming, a more globalized world and they are afraid of what is going to happen to their European (American) heritage. Sometimes, out of the blue I hear them telling the kids, “you know that you are part Iris right?” They do love the idea of the kids being able to understand 2 languages. But, they take pride of them being bilingual Americans. On the other hand, my parents treasure every single word in Spanish that come from their mouths. They make such a big fuss over the kids that the kids love los Abuelitos. Thank you for your comment and for joining the conversation.

  4. Hi Cecy,
    I love your post! One thing that comes through in the chapter and in your article is something that I found to be true as I was raising my kids with two languages – you have to be constantly aware, adapting, reevaluating and recommitting to keeping Spanish alive and present. The dynamics of our household continued to change as the kids get older and I found that I had to rethink and rework the plan to be sure they were getting enough exposure. It is wonderful when they get old enough to assume more responsibility for their learning and when they can travel to stay with family alone! Thank you for a great post!

    • Jennifer, Thanks for your kind words! It really takes a lot of commitment to make bilingualism happen. We can change the strategy, but we must not forget the goal. I truly hope my kids learn to love the culture and the language as much as I do. Today they see it as cool to be Bolivians and Americans, and Spanish is what makes us special. They do not see the advantages that it brings, at lest they have not talked about it yet. I definitely have to give them more exposure, that would encourage them to speak and want to learn more. And yes, you are right when you say that as they grow they will be assuming more responsibility and perhaps traveling by themselves.

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