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.
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.
Currently 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?