I wrote this blog for the Mommy 4-1-1 site and thought I’d share it here as well….
I am 23 weeks pregnant with my first little one. I have to say it was a bit of a surprise to find out we were pregnant. My husband and I were in the stage of starting to talk about it when VOILA on a vacation to South Beach I realized it had already happened. We felt lucky to have been able to get pregnant so easily and I have had a wonderful pregnancy thus far. I love watching my belly grow, and the baby is getting big enough where now I can actually see my stomach bounce up when he/she (we aren’t finding out!) kicks!
As the months pass and the time approaches when this little baby will enter our world, my husband and I are trying to get everything prepared. By that I am not referring to what color I want to paint the baby’s room, it’s more about what kind of parents do we want to be? How will we make sure to raise a bright, curious, cultured, socially responsible child? Top on our list is to make sure the baby is bilingual.
I was born in the Dominican Republic and spent my childhood between Los Angeles and my hometown of Santiago. During the school year I was the Americanized version of myself, and then summer would come and my entire family would pack up and get ready for Dominican. Those summers are the greatest memories I have of my childhood and I remember almost feeling like I had two lives. I rejoined my Dominican friends and Spanish once again came naturally, so much so that by the end of the summer I was thinking and dreaming in Spanish. I loved having that special experience that none of my US friends had. I loved being able to meld completely into two entirely different worlds. I want my baby to have the same multi-cultural experience, especially in this increasingly global world in which we live. The benefits of being able to speak Spanish and English are still paying off. I have been able to travel and live in multiple countries. It has made me so curious and open to the rest of the world.
I am so passionate and so determined to raise my baby bilingually that my sister-in-law Nathalie and I started a company to help other parents do the same. Nathalie and my brother Carlos are already raising their two children bilingually. We launched Professor Pocket, http://www.professorpocket.com , in 2005 and it’s been a wonderful journey. We produce Spanish/English CDs that use a combination of very funny storytelling and catchy songs to get both parents and their children excited about learning a second language. The key is to introduce the language early on. Children are little sponges, it is amazing how quickly they absorb what they hear. As a Spanish speaker my goal is to speak to the baby only in Spanish while my husband will speak in English. It may be intimidating for parents who don’t speak another language to introduce a second language to their child, but it is possible and I wanted to share my top tips for raising bilingual children….
1. Don’t be afraid!
Even if you don’t speak the second language, look for products, like Professor Pocket, that make language learning a fun and interactive process for both parents and children. As a parent you can learn along with the child.
2. Be consistent!
Make sure your child hears the new language every day, it’s the only way they will learn. Books and audio CDs are a must as well as everyday conversation.
3. Make it fun!
If it isn’t fun for you and the child, you are less likely to be consistent in your introduction. Music and stories are a great way to keep the child engaged while they learn.
4. Have no fear, your child will still learn English!
There are so many incorrect fears that introducing multiple languages will only confuse the child and delay their development of their English language skills. This is not true! Beyond becoming bilingual your child will show superior problem solving and math skills, increased overall school performance, and better cross-cultural understanding.
If you are interested in this topic here are some other sites to check out…
Bilingual/Bicultural Family Network
Teaching and Learning Spanish