I am in Lima, Peru spending a few weeks with my oldest daughter who lives here. My son is traveling with me and from here we will go to Mexico to spend several weeks before heading home to Wisconsin. Spanish Playground has been getting less attention these days, but traveling with my kids gives me time to reflect on raising them with Spanish and English.
When I was teaching my kids Spanish, I did not think too much about how it would be a part of our relationship as they got older. Who has time to speculate when you are immersed in the process? Now that all three are in their early twenties, it is impossible to imagine what our family would be like if they did not have both languages.
These are a few of the ways their skills in Spanish and English influence our interactions and relationship now:
– They can proofread my work in either language.
– They read the news in Spanish and English and their perspective is not reflexively or exclusively that of the United States.
– They keep me in touch with the popular culture of Peru and Mexico.
– We send each other language jokes and articles.
– They credit their accomplishments (everything from getting summer jobs to being accepted to medical school) to speaking two languages, although there are always many other factors involved.
– They keep me in touch with the slang of their age group in both languages.
– I have confidence in their ability to choose good friends and make important decisions in both languages and cultures. After years of working with college students, I know that this is not something to take for granted.
– They consider teaching languages an important profession, and if they get tired of talking about how children learn Spanish, they hide it well.
– They are the perfect traveling companions for relatives who do not speak two languages.
– They recommend books and suggest new music in two languages.
– As I get older and my word-finding skills are not what they used to be, they finish my sentences in both languages.
– Their relationship with each other has an added dimension that will last their whole lives.
– They are enormously appreciative for the gift of language and culture and they express their gratitude regularly.
Jul 6, 2012
Wow, so many gifts and perks you wouldn’t expect. Thanks for this post. My boys are 13 and 10 and sometimes it’s so easy to just slip back into English and stay there awhile. This list helps remind me to keep doing what’s difficult (speaking to them in my 2nd language), because the payoff will be worth it.
Justin Travis Mair
Jul 6, 2012
I do my best, but I am not doing as well as I should. I try and read your blog to keep me motivated, but I think I need tor reevaluate myself and work harder! Thanks for posting as often as you do.
Jul 7, 2012
Great inspiration! We’re on our way to Bolivia soon and hope the kids will see the importance of us speaking Spanish at home.
Jul 7, 2012
Our best is all any of us can do! It is a long process and there are times when it is easier to do more and times when our energy has to go into other things.
Jul 7, 2012
Being in a Spanish-speaking country helps so much. We were fortunate to be able to spend part of each summer in Mexico, and I think that really helped my kids’ motivation. Have a great time in Bolivia!
Jul 7, 2012
I think a lot of people, especially Americans, look at the idea of learning a new language or teaching their kids a second language, from the perspective of “Why? What’s the point?” and they just don’t understand how much of a difference it can make, especially if you want to travel and everyone should want to travel outside of their own country to some degree or another.
Right now, the problem isn’t just our abysmal language-education system in the United States (which is part of an education system that, in general, isn’t very good for a wealthy developed country), it’s that plus the additional hardship of having to sell people on the idea of learning a language, we have to convince others that it’s actually worth their time to learn another language and to teach it to their kids.
Thanks for doing what you can to help this along and help others learn and teach Spanish.
Jul 29, 2013
Love reading this and seeing how much your children gained from growing up with two languages. It’s great how learning a language opens up cultural horizons!
Jul 29, 2013
Great post! We are monolingual American’s who have raised our 12 year old daughter as a trilingual from birth ( Spanish/Mandarin/English) and can already see the tremendous benefits. Looking forward to reaping more rewards and grateful we got her heritage language back as it was lost with my husband’s generation as assimilation was the key when he grew up.
We couldn’t even get her perfectly bilingual grandfather ( who only spoke Spanish until he went to school) to ever speak to her in Spanish…until he finally came to Spain on his 8oth birthday.
We’ve traveled the world for 8 years to give her languages and raise her as a global citizen and we already see the benefits.
I think it is also very important to educate bilingual kids on the importance of passing the languages down to all future generations.
We had to drop Mandarin for a while as it was just too much with 3 languages and 2 instruments with parents who had no talent in any of it…so got to see first hand how much easier it is to get it young.
My daughter remembers no struggle with Spanish, but we picked Chinese back up at 9, so she does remember that struggle…especially the reading and writing!
Enjoy your trip and children!!
Jul 31, 2013
I loved this post! It is so nice to have the perspective of someone with older kids (mine are 4 and 6). The two from your list that are my favorites are these:
– They credit their accomplishments (everything from getting summer jobs to being accepted to medical school) to speaking two languages. (This was exciting to read!)
– They read the news in Spanish and English and their perspective is not reflexively or exclusively that of the United States. (I didn’t think about that one before in terms of reading the news!)
And what I also hope in our trilingual journey (Spanish-Arabic-English) is that when they are older, they will realize how awesome it is they can speak these languages from the time they were young. Your kids expressing gratitude for having been raised bilingually gives me a hint that maybe one day they will be grateful!
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