Friday, March 27, 2009

Raising a Bilingual Child

With an ever growing number of interracial marriages, speaking another language in the home has become a very interesting and important topic of discussion. The question often comes up "What language should we use with our children?".

I immigrated to the States from Uruguay, South American when I was 7 years old, with my parents and 2 younger siblings. My mother was the daughter of a diplomat, so she was exposed to many languages growing up - and today speaks fluent English, Italian, French and Spanish. Impressive!! My father on the other hand grew up on a farm during most of his life, and didn't speak English at all when we moved to New York in 1986. We were really young, so learning the English language and gradually losing the accent was much easier for us than it was for my father. However, I have always appreciated the fact that while my mother spoke flawless English, both of my parents refused to speak English at home. Fortunately, over the last 23 years, I have managed to maintain my Uruguayan accent.

When I first entered the work force in the late 90s, it became even more apparent the importance of being able to speak another language - especially Spanish. I never once doubted that I would speak to my children in Spanish at home, no matter what my future husband's mother tongue was, because I was able to really understand the importance and value in speaking a second language.

I met my husband on one of my vacation trips back to Uruguay –so fortunately, there is no question that Spanish will be spoken at home when the little man arrives. However, it's easier said than done. My younger brother was born in the States 13 years ago, and while he understands Spanish perfectly, it was much more of a struggle to get him to speak Spanish at home growing up American. Fortunately, my parents continued to instill the importance of speaking the language at home, and for this, he will always have an advantage over many.

Granted it's tougher when the person you live with doesn't speak the language you use with your children at home, but I strongly believe that it's more important for your child to learn another language. Wouldn't you want to share your culture and experiences with your baby that is part of what made them who they are? It might even be an incentive for your spouse to want to learn another language as well. It's never too late - but depriving your child of that amazing advantage when they're young and developing, would be a great asset lost. Would you agree?

A si que, hablaremos Español con nustro hijo - sin duda.


  1. I agree it's much easier said than done.
    Especially when you finally realize that they are actually learning more from outside influences (friends, television, etc) than from us...even if they do spend more time with us.

    You have a big community of on-line mamás that will cheer you on and help you with any questions. :)

  2. I agree! Being bilingual/multilingual is a wonderful thing. I wish I had that "gift" and could pass it along to my children. I have often wondered how I might teach my children another language without knowing one myself...