For the last three and a half years I’ve been sharing on SpanglishBaby all the research that has been coming out from the scientific, linguistics and education fields that prove that bilingualism is better for children. The advances in technologies like neuroimaging that essentially take a peek into our brains, are proving that our kids are excellent multitaskers, they can concentrate better, their brains are more flexible, they are better readers and they even have an edge over Alzheimer’s disease.
All of these alone are excellent reasons to be convinced that bilingual truly is better for any child, yet for many of us parents with cultural and even nostalgic ties to a language, the reasons may come from the heart as well. “Bilingual is Better,” the book I co-author with Roxana Soto, is already available for order online. In one of the chapters, I explore the various reasons why we decide to raise kids speaking more than one language, and I also share my very personal reasons. Below is an excerpt from that chapter to give you an exclusive sneak peek.
Why Raise Bilinguals? My Reasons for Raising a Bilingual Child
At fifteen months, my daughter started spitting out words like crazy, exactly at the same time she started daycare. And with this came our worries that being exposed to English just when she was starting to learn Spanish, would confuse her to the point that my husband’s nightmares would become a reality. You see, ever since she was born, he has had nightmares about his daughter asking him to take her for a ride in his troka to the marketa. So you can imagine how important an issue her acquisition and fluency of both Spanish and English is in our home. We don’t want her to just understand Spanish and speak back to us in English; we want her to be able to communicate with her grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins in Mexico and El Salvador in their language. We don’t want her to feel embarrassed because she speaks Spanish but speaks it differently.
By the time she had turned three, Camila had a long distance relationship with everyone in her family, except for her mamá and papá. I always feel guilty that, not only will she be an only child, but she’ll also be deprived of knowing what it is to visit la casa de la abuela for lunch every Saturday, to have wild sleepovers with her primas or to just have multiple hands on deck to lovingly care for her at a moment’s notice. Her first trip to El Salvador when she turned three was not only an immersion in language, but an immersion in familia. In this case, the two are intertwined.
From the moment we got to my mother’s house, Camila was putting the new words in her vocabulary to good use: tía, prima, primo, abuelita, abuelito. All words she had previously known merely as concepts, not concepts I’m sure she could even grasp at her age. She had seen and met them all before—except for her one-year-old primito—but she was too young to retain the relationships from a distance. To my surprise, as soon as she saw them all again she immediately embraced each one with a joy that can only be bonded through blood. The next morning, the first words out of her mouth were: “¿Dónde están mi tía y mis primos?” (“Where are my cousins and my aunt?”) Just like that, she had a family. And they all speak the same language she speaks at home. The language she associates with warmth, safety and pure love.
That was when I realized that by immersing her in Spanish, we had not only gifted her with the mighty brain of a bilingual, but we had also given her the chance to be truly connected with her family and her heritage.
As you can see in the slideshow below, my own reasons are actually a bit simplistic, but from the heart.
Now it’s your turn, if you’re already raising a bilingual child or plan on it, what are your reasons for doing it? If you’re not, do any of these reasons resonate with you? Please share in the comments below.
Check out the book I co-authored, Bilingual is Better: Two Latina Moms on How the Bilingual Parenting Revolution is Changing the Face of America.
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