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Bilingual Mom Profile: Alice Graulty

It’s meeting parents like Alice Graulty that keep me motivated on my own language-learning journey. Alice is raising her daughter to speak both Spanish and English. Today we kick off a new series, profiling other moms, dads, and caretakers as they share their own stories on our MamaLingua Bilingual Mom Blog!

I had the pleasure of meeting Alice Graulty at a local community event, where I had a table laid out with Spanish children’s books. Alice picked up a book and proceeded to read with her young daughter in Spanish. I was impressed by her abilities – and especially those of her daughter.

It’s parents like Alice that keep me motivated on my own language-learning journey. So today, we kick off a new series, profiling other moms, dads, and caretakers as they share their own stories on our MamaLingua Bilingual Mom Blog!

ML: How did you learn Spanish?

Growing up, many of our family vacations took place in Spanish-speaking countries – most often in Mexico. When we went on these vacations, my parents put us in language classes each morning, so I had early exposure to Spanish and came to love the language.

At 17, I spent my entire senior year of high school in Spain, attending public school and living with a host family. I loved teaching English and learning Spanish from my five-year-old host sister. She made learning Spanish fun through play, Disney movies, bedtime books, and songs.

In college I studied abroad again, attending the University of Barcelona, and spent a summer as a nanny for two little boys, ages two and four. After college, I tutored children whose families were preparing to move or travel abroad to Spanish-speaking countries. This was a valuable time for me to experiment with how to teach language through games.

I still draw on those experiences every day with my daughter, who was born in 2015. I knew that I wanted to try to raise her bilingually, but I didn't know if I would have what it took to fully commit to speaking to her exclusively in Spanish. It took awhile for me to get used to thinking of Spanish as my main language with my daughter, but it got easier the more I did it. My own Spanish has improved immensely and I’m fascinated by how she has picked up both languages.

ML: Why did you decide to raise bilingual children?

First and foremost, I love languages and I’m fascinated by language acquisition in small children – no matter the language! If it weren't fun for me, I couldn't do it. Beyond that, I want my daughter to be able to communicate with people from other countries and cultures. I want her to have the benefits that being bilingual creates in her brain – the creativity and flexibility. I also want her to have the opportunities that go along with being bilingual in a global world.

ML: What has kept you motivated?

Encouragement from the people around me has kept me going. I often worry whether my Spanish is good enough, or whether I'm being disruptive or annoying by speaking Spanish to her when everyone else is speaking English. But my husband is 100 percent on board, and so many of my friends and family are excited by her bilingualism. Best of all, when we meet a native Spanish speaker at the grocery store who is both shocked and delighted to hear her speak, it's all worth it.

ML: Any words of advice to other parents working to teach Spanish to their kids?

Keep it fun and keep it low pressure. I never tell my daughter not to speak to me in English. I do always reply to her in Spanish, and she usually naturally transitions back to Spanish. I never "quiz" her in Spanish because I don't want her to feel put on the spot. And when she does speak to me in English, I echo her phrases back to her in Spanish, which she often then repeats.

I try to remember that at this early age, she's not "learning Spanish," she's learning to speak! I flood her with music, books, audio books and podcasts in Spanish, and it's even better when we spend time with families whose kids also speak Spanish.

ML: What else have you learned along the way?

One thing I'm doing differently is delaying introducing the concept of English vs. Spanish. For most of her young life, my daughter didn't know that she spoke English and Spanish, although she did know that everything had two words. I would tell her that a fork was a “tenedor,” but I would tell her that it was also called a "fork."

She’s learning from other people that she knows two languages, but she sometimes still isn't sure which language is which. My personal theory is that by drawing less attention to her bilingualism, I'll be able to keep it going for longer.

You can follow Alice and her daughter’s language-learning journey at www.bilingualbaby.blog.

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