A Mami le Hablas en Español.
New years are usually met with an endless list of resolutions. Parents already have the pressure to “be better” on a daily basis. So this 2018, I repeated a resolution that I’ve had since my son was born and will keep on my list for forever. As a bilingual mom, there’s one thing I have consistently hoped for and worked hard at, and it’s a great resolution for Spanish-speaking parents: let’s make sure our kids are bilingual.
For us second-generation Hispanics, it’s tough. We spoke Spanish at home but it quickly became our second language once we started school. But at a time where research has repeatedly proven that bilingual kids have so many advantages, It would be a disservice to not pass on a language we already know to our kids.
So here are some tips to make sure speaking Spanish (or any other language) to our kids a 2018 resolution.
Be consistent. Consistency creates habits and when you speak a certain language to your kids it has more staying power than if it is used randomly. For example, this past weekend we were eating lunch and our son grabbed his water bottle and said “Open it, daddy. Ábrelo, mami.” He associates Spanish with me because I consistently speak to him in Spanish. I always tell him, “A mami le hablas en español”. if he speaks to me in English I say “en español se dice asi…” and make sure he repeats it and understands that there’s two ways to say something.
It’s your responsibility. When my son was born I automatically assumed los abuelos would be in charge of speaking to my baby in Spanish. I also figured his caretakers in daycare would read, sing and speak to him in Spanish. I had heard about amazing TV shows, apps and books we could use to make sure he learned to be fluent. And sure, these are great reinforcements, but as their parent you have the most control over how much they are exposed to a certain language. It’s up to you to initiate and implement a consistent routine.
It’s never too late. Researchers say that the skills to acquire a second language peak at around age 6. Some even say this window extends through puberty. So don’t give up thinking it’s not possible anymore. Throughout my sons first year, I was inconsistent and mostly spoke to my son in Spanglish. I realized I had wasted time but I knew changing my habits and being strict about our new routine would be tremendously beneficial. Just a year later my sons vocabulary has exploded in both English and Spanish.
So, let’s not forget where our parents came from, how we were raised, and what kind of future we want for our hopefully bilingual babies! ¡Feliz año nuevo!
Previously published on https://www.lorenaobvious.com/single-post/2018/01/03/A-mami-le-hablas-en-espa%C3%B1ol