Raising a Bilingual Child
I’d first like to mention that I’m barely an expert on this. I just wanted to share with my readers how it has been going since I am raising a bilingual child. Well first, if you didn’t already know, I should probably explain why I might want to share my son’s progress.
I am actually what most Americans would consider to be black. I say it that way because, in learning about my family history, I refuse to identify with the term African American. No one in at least the last 4-5 generations on either side of my family is from Africa. Many people from many different countries have descendants from Africa in their ancestry but that does not make them African Argentinian (to give an example). If you do identify with the term African American, regardless, this is not to make you feel bad about that. I’m just telling you what I identify with. Usually, if someone’s parents come from a different country, he or she would identify with this type of terminology. For example, my friend’s family is from China. Her parents were born in China. She, however, was born in America. Because her parents are from China, she identifies with the term Chinese American. I just won’t identify with a term like this because I don’t feel I should identify with that one term and negate any other culture within my family such as French, and the several Native American tribes that my ancestors come from. Bottom line, I consider myself to just be American! LOL! I said all of that to give my readers a background to understand my love for cultures and languages and to understand who I am in the midst of all of that.
I studied French all through middle and high school. My love for Spanish came during college. I have no Spanish descent in my family that I know of. I simply fell in love with the culture, the people and the language. During college, I decided to major in it. I even went on to study for about a year to get my Masters in Translation, only to realize that I didn’t really love translating, I just enjoyed talking to people in their native language and helping them. During that time, I also studied in Spain for 3 months of that year.
Once I got pregnant, I began to read to see if anyone like me had ever attempted to teach or speak to their child in a foreign tongue that wasn’t the parent’s first language. Could it work out? Would the child be fluent? Most people think its easy and it’s a no brainer. But from talking to people who live in the US whose native tongue is Spanish, there appeared to be certain struggles in ensuring that the child did in fact learn the two languages equally. There is also the element of biculturalism that could be missed. I’ve learned about Spanish and some Latin American cultures but it wasn’t second nature to me in the same way that native speakers could incorporate their culture in the native tongue they were using with their children.
I finally found an article where a linguist stated that if a person was at least near native in his level of the second language, the person could in fact teach his or her child to be fluent in a language that is neither parent’s mother tongue. She suggested a person be near native because pronunciation and grammar are some of the things that are important for when a child is listening and trying to speak a language correctly. This made me happy. I consider myself only to be somewhat bilingual. I know there is so much Spanish I don’t know, but many native speakers believe when talking to me that I am at least a second generation native speaker, which would mean that my parents were natives and just possibly taught me at home. I think that is a nice compliment which could possibly put me in the near native category, so I decided I could definitely teach my son. I converse with him in mostly Spanish and I read to him in both languages. Dad speaks only English. Since we plan to homeschool, that will be a whole different ball game. I plan to teach him main subjects in English but for language, grammar and writing, work to perfect both languages. Below are some of his favorite books for us to read to him:
I’ll keep you all updated on how it is going. So far, I think it is going pretty well. Thanks for reading this! Are you teaching your child two languages? Have you had any thoughts of making your child fluent in two languages even if you know just one? Whatever the case is, I’d love to hear your thoughts! Until next time!