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Oct 08, 2021 -

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Best Tips For Bilingualism- Continuing The Tradition

By Monika Leal and Paula Niño

‍Being bilingual allows us to communicate with more people, appreciate other cultures and enjoy many cognitive benefits.

Being bilingual allows us to communicate with more people, appreciate other cultures and enjoy many cognitive benefits.

We’ve experienced this first hand since we’re both bilingual and learned English at a young age. So when our daughters were born, we knew we wanted to  teach them Spanish, but our reasons at that moment came more from the heart.

As Latina moms, Spanish is at the core of our cultural identity. It’s connected to our childhood and the people we love, so we couldn’t imagine our daughters not having the language to communicate with our families, or not being able to participate in cultural traditions that were important to us.

We felt passionately about this and dabbled with the idea of doing a blog to share resources with other parents raising Spanish speakers. Earlier this year, the idea for a podcast came up, and in April, Entre Dos was born.

Our goal was to help and inspire other parents of bilingual children by having conversations around bilingual parenting. Every family and child is different but the one thing we all share is that, no matter which language we’re teaching our child, getting them to maintain it and perfect it in an English-dominant environment takes a lot of effort.

One of the most common challenges we hear about is parents not having enough opportunities to expose their kids to that second language. We’re lucky to live in cities with strong Spanish-speaking populations and bilingual schools, but when that’s not the case, parents may feel discouraged and alone. That’s why we wanted to create a community to help each other out and offer a little motivation. We sometimes need it too!

Raising our daughters and doing Entre Dos has taught us a lot, but perhaps the biggest lesson we’ve learned is to just relax. We’re doing what we can and there is not one right way to raise a bilingual child. We used to fret about our kids speaking Spanglish or only in English, but some of these things are just a normal part of bilingual education. Instead, we’ve tried to focus on the bigger picture.

One of our guests gave us an excellent piece of advice. He told us that we should aim to raise children who in their teens or early adulthood take it upon themselves to continue to maintain the language we’ve taught them. As parents, we can do this by instilling a sense of pride in our kids about their bilingualism. Show them what a gift it is. They will appreciate it.

Three tips for parents:

  • Read, read, read – It’s the best way to expose your children to the minority language at home.
  • Make language learning fun – There may be times when you feel that you’re constantly asking your kid to say things en español, but always remember to lighten up. Dance, sing songs, watch bilingual children’s shows, play Latino games from your childhood. Give them a reason to love the language.
  • This is a long game – Bilingual proficiency doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a long-term, non-linear process. If you do everything you can to provide enough exposure and opportunities to use the target language, the odds are in your favor.

About the authors

Monika Leal and Paula Niño Kehr are the founders of Entre Dos Podcast, a podcast about raising bilingual children. Monika is from Puerto Rico and mom to Zoé, 4, and Paula is from Colombia and mom to Emilia, 6.

Readers can find Entre Dos Podcast on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter @entredospodcast.

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Ask a Bilingual Expert

Raising a bilingual child? On this page, our very own Director of Learning Design and Efficacy, Sophia Espinoza, addresses some of the most common questions, concerns, and curiosities around the benefits of bilingualism. Get the scoop below!

Sophia Espinoza is a career educator and curriculum designer with seven years of experience teaching in private and independent schools across the country. She is an expert in 21st-century education, including technologically-powered personalization, multilingual and multicultural curriculums, and social-emotional learning.

Sophia began teaching in Chicago Public Schools through Chicago Teaching Fellows, learning to support both English Language Learners and students with neurodiverse needs. Among her proudest accomplishments is launching the AltSchool Spanish Immersion Program, with the mission of creating bilingual global citizens who are socially conscious and environmentally aware. Sophia holds a B.A. from Northwestern University and M.A.Ed. from Dominican University.

Benefits of Bilingualism (FAQs):

Any advice on managing two Spanish dialects in the household? Does this cause confusion for kids?

What do you recommend if I’m not completely fluent and my child’s school doesn’t have an immersion class?

Do you recommend teaching different subjects in different languages? For example, the solar system in English and the days of the week in Spanish? Or is it better for kids to try to learn in both languages all the time?

We speak Spanish and English in our home but my child almost always answers or talks back in English. How can I go about encouraging her to respond and speak more in Spanish?

Should I set aside time or create activities for each language or is it okay to mix them both together?

Any advice for households where one parent speaks Spanish and the other English? Can this be confusing for children?

How can my child learn language through play?

What are the social and cultural benefits of bilingualism?

What are some of the cognitive benefits of bilingualism?

What are some strategies for raising bilingual children?

What are some common misconceptions about raising bilingual children?

What are some of the cognitive benefits of bilingualism?