Communicating and expressing yourself is the goal

In Raising a bilingual child on October 26, 2010 at 1:16 pm

I LOVE YOU in many different languages

After almost three years in a home daycare, with a wonderful woman called Donna we decided to move our son to a more academic setting.  The reason was that the challenges Donna could provide such as potty training, getting along with other children, following a routine of sleep and meals, learning colors, shapes, numbers and words for example were mostly conquered, and he was getting bored.

Donna doesn’t speak Spanish, but I really do not regret the time my son spent with her.  He learned many good things and I felt he was safe and loved. Those last two are paramount in my priorities, more so than Spanish.

His brand new school, as he likes to call it, is a Montessori based school.  One of the great things about this school is that they have two teachers per class.  One of the teachers speaks Spanish to the kids and another speaks English, in a way mirroring the language arrangement we have at home.  I have requested for the teacher who speaks Spanish to only speak Spanish with my son.  It has been a couple of months now and I can already hear the difference.

They also have one hour daily of Spanish with another teacher.  It is an immersion class designed for children who do not have Spanish at home.

I am so delighted.  There are more people now being sources of Spanish for my son.  More people he needs to communicate with in Spanish and who encourage him to do it.  It is as well another environment where Spanish is expected to be spoken.

Our son has grown more comfortable using Spanish to express himself.  His sentences are more complex and he is almost consistently now choosing Spanish to start a conversation with me, rather than using English, his dominant language.  This tells me his Spanish is closer to the surface.

He also translates to English when I ask him to tell something to his grandma or to another kid.  He just turns around and says it in English.

It is simply amazing the way both languages are working together and settling down in his mind.  Learning Spanish is not the goal, but simply the means to communicate with his mother and with his teachers.  Later on, it will be the means to communicate with his uncles, aunts and cousins in Mexico.

Children will learn a language not because the focus is learning a language, but because they want to communicate with others, understand things and express themselves, and that language happens to be the means to do so. Being born in a multicultural family is a wonderful advantage in that sense.  However, it doesn’t mean a language cannot be obtained through the same principle by a person born into a family that speaks only one language.

I grew up in a family where reading a book was the way to entertain yourself.  If I was bored, I would immediately be directed to a book.  When I was fifteen my brothers stopped buying books in Spanish because they were much more expensive than the original books in English.  I remember looking at those books in English with their fantastic covers and feeling sad and frustrated because I couldn’t read them.  Finally one day I armed myself with a dictionary.  I took one of those books and started to read, haltingly and slowly until I was able to do it without the dictionary.  I learned English because I wanted to read the books my brothers brought home.  Learning English was not my goal.  My goal was to access the stories in those books.

If you are interested in learning a language or for your child to learn a language that is not an active element of your cultural background, I encourage you to make the language not the goal, but the means to achieve something you or your child are passionate about.

If my post resonated with you and you know other people who would find it interesting, practical or inspiring, please share it with them by email, facebook or twitter. Sharing is the only way my writing will reach new readers. Thank you!


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