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Simple Tips For When Your Child Enters the Bilingual Rebellion Stage

Simple Tips for when your child enters the bilingual rebellion stage

So you’ve committed to the decision to pass on your native language to your child. You have your ideal method and family plan all figured out.

You read to her in Spanish when she was in the womb and inundated the house with the sounds of Juanes and Celia Cruz.

You sang to her the nanas and canciones de cuna your mamá and papá sang to you.

You talked to her non stop in Spanish; all the time, all day to make sure she knew it.

And then her first words start coming out: Mamá. Papá. Agua. Hola. Bebé.

You’re ecstatic. She’s speaking español!

And then words start becoming sentences and more and more of those words start turning into English, and slowly she stops responding to you in Spanish.

Do you panic? Did she lose her Spanish because of the all English daycare? Did she watch Diego and Dora one too many times in English? Did she not have enough Spanish-speaking friends?

No need to panic. You did it all right. This is actually a very natural progression of her language acquisition where she is choosing which language to use at which time. She’s also demonstrating a grasp of both languages from the brain of a true bilingual.

Excellent, but you really do want her to respond to you in Spanish because that was the end goal. Right?

If you find yourself in this situation, do not worry! It’s not impossible to reverse.

So, what to do if your child refuses to answer you in Spanish or whichever other minority language you use?

Here’s what helped me get through this stage a few years ago and that really worked:

  • I realized I needed to be careful not to turn speaking Spanish into a mandate, but rather something she wanted to do. I had  to make it so much a part of her life that she, all on her own, would not let go of it.
  • My husband and I spoke, and still do, to my daughter only in Spanish at home. All the time. No exceptions.
  • When she did reply in English, I would rephrase what she said in Spanish and encourage her to repeat it.
  • I read to her a lot more and in Spanish. She was getting plenty of exposure to English language books at preschool during those days, and we had to make sure she got more in Spanish.
  • I made it a point to hang out more with our Spanish-speaking amigos which we have plenty of, but who live all over the Greater L.A. area
  • We Skyped a lot more frequently with her tía, prima and abuelita in El Salvador and family in Mexico. She adores her cousins and they’ve spent quality time together both in El Salvador and Mexico over the years. Every time I tell her “Si no hablas español, no vas a poder platicar con tu prima,” (“If you don’t speak Spanish, you won’t be able to talk to your cousin.”) she immediately switches to Spanish. That’s my Ace right there.
  • We made the drastic decision to move neighborhoods so she could attend one of the few dual language immersion schools we had as an option. Just that allowed me to relax knowing that at least half of her day is in Spanish no matter what we do.
  • Travel to Mexico and El Salvador more often! I am lucky that I’ve carved out a life where I can take my laptop with me anywhere and work from there. It does have its implications, but it’s worth it.

Now it’s your turn. What is your plan of action for when your child enters the bilingual rebellion stage? Write it down and share with me below or on the SpanglishBaby Facebook page. What’s important is that you keep it as a reference and reminder for when you need it so you will be able to respond clearly and affirmatively.

{Excerpted from 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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