As a child of “two worlds,” you can almost say I had it easy when it came to bilingualism. It’s not likeI tried hard to learn Spanish and English. I just did.
My mother, my sister and I moved to El Salvador from Houston when I was six-years-old. My mom says that by then I was already perfectly bilingual. I don’t think she really gave it much thought at that time; I was getting plenty of English at kindergarten in Houston and playing all day with my English-speaking neighbors. The Spanish input I received from both my parents, as well as my aunt who lived with us and the large group of party-loving Latinos my parents hung out with.
The one thing my mom was very clear about was that she wanted us to attend an American school in El Salvador that followed a North American curriculum from kindergarten through high school, which meant I was completely immersed in English and only had one class in Spanish every day. Not much, right? Well, I still learned to read and write Spanish with no problems. How? Because I was immersed in Spanish the rest of the day and spoke it with my peers since it was our native language. English, being the minority language, had to be more strongly reinforced through school and activities.
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 actually have a plan with my own daughter. The thought had never crossed my mind before conceiving her. Now I know how truly lucky I was to be given the gift of two languages — my mother did try for a third language (French), but I was way too necia by then!
The benefits of learning a second (or more) language at an early age include everything from increased creativity and multi-tasking abilities, to a broader understanding of cultures, and even a delay in the onset of Alzheimer’s at an older age! Not only that, but it equips children to be better prepared with the necessary 21st century skills they will need to compete and get ahead when the time comes. Who doesn’t want all these benefits for their child?
Our babies are born ready to learn multiple languages, but it takes a committed parent to give them this amazing gift no one will ever be able to take away from them.
Even if you don’t know more than one language fluently, these 10 tips will help put you on a path to raising a bilingual child.
I share many more tips, anecdotes and research behind the bilingual brain on my recently published book, “Bilingual is Better.”
Buy the book I co-authored, Bilingual is Better: Two Latina Moms on How the Bilingual Parenting Revolution is Changing the Face of America.
Read more from me at
More on Besos:
Don’t miss the latest from Babble Voices – Like Us on Facebook!
MORE ON BABBLE:
7 things you should never say to a child
20 totally inappropriate vintage ads featuring children
25 things every kid should experience
20 of the least annoying TV shows for kids
25 cringe-worthy photos of stuff kids have ruined