Monday, August 6, 2012

Growing up bilingual

Speaking two (or more) languages is usually considered a great skill and an advantage in so many levels...I happen to agree since I have experienced first hand what it feels like to have such "skill"...
I started studying English while I was still living in Venezuela, and I have been fluently speaking it for more than half my life.. When someone is bilingual, there comes a point where your brain just thinks/works in whatever language you're using at any given moment... I've had a few people ask me if I think in English or Spanish, and I find it very amusing.. the brain is such a mysterious thing...
Now...it's clear my native language is Spanish and I can easily switch between the two languages I speak, but now that I'm a parent of bilingual children is when I've really started to think about how challenging it could be to develop (and master) such a skill.  My kids are getting to a point where their vocabulary is expanding by the second and their brain is going a thousand miles an hour. Just recently I've started to notice them mixing the two languages and having some trouble expressing their ideas clearly by using just one language at a time... I've noticed Olivia trying to translate her thoughts and often getting frustrated when she can't find the right words... At first I thought they were favoring Spanish over English (considering I only spoke in Spanish to them until they were 2 years old), but now I just don't know what they prefer and it really stresses me out when they can't seem to find the right language in which to communicate...
I know in school it will all be English, but I really want them to embrace the fact that they are meant to be bilingual people and I also really want them to be able to speak (and write) both languages to perfection! It's going to take a lot of work from us as parents to be able to achieve that.. and I am fully aware of it...
Just recently I've started to do some research about what resources are available for parents of bilingual children and I've noticed a growing trend of bilingual toys, books, cartoons, etc (hello Dora the Explorer!)...In my research I came across a site called "Growing up Bilingual" (http://www.growingupbilingual.org/), which is probably one of the best ones out there; this site covers issues regarding concerns revolving around bilingual education and the different resources out there.  It also features a forum for parents of bilingual children and a list of books on different topics having to do with raising successful bilingual kids... It's really good!  There's also another great website called "Growing up Bilingual: Raising & Educating bicultural kids" (http://growingupbilingual.com/); this one lists a ton of useful blogs, recipes and resources addressing bilingual families and bicultural children.. really good too!
I know there are many parents of bilingual children out there, and I also know that many of those parents don't even think about the challenges that can come out of growing up bilingual. Of course, speaking multiple languages is a great thing (in most cases), but it is also very important to support an environment in which this condition is positively nurtured and properly encouraged. If your child has the slightest change of growing up bilingual.. you've got to help him/her embrace the skill and develop it to a point of total comfort!

2 comments:

Tu amiga que te quiere, jaja said...

Rosa me contó que a Ale le cuesta más que a Isa diferenciar los dos idiomas y se frustra cuando le corrigen expresiones como "en el Isabella cuarto". Pobrecitas. ¡Mucho éxito!

Meagan said...

I believe being bilingual is such a gift! My husband's mother and father moved to the US from Portugal before he was born and he hardly knows their native language. He understands some of the language but he is far from fluent in Portuguese and I always wonder why his mother did not want him speaking anything but english. Your effort will definitely be appreciated by the girls when they get older.