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Bilingual Mom: Milay Duncan

This mama is very special to me – she’s the one who kept me going when I just felt like giving up my goal of raising bilingual kids. We motivated each other – or maybe it became a competition. Whatever it was, it worked, and we’re now proud to say all four of our kids are bilingual.

What's your bilingual story?

My family and I emigrated from Cuba in 1980 and lived with extended family in Miami for a few years. When I was about 8 years old, we moved to Dallas and that's where I grew up. We only spoke Spanish at home, but my sister and I spoke English at school, with friends, and with each other. I was embarrassed to have friends come over because I knew my family was different.

I didn't know that raising bilingual children was going to be important to be until I had my first child, Lilian. Surprisingly, my husband was insistent on raising our children bilingually, so I took it upon myself to only speak Spanish from then on. Both my children are bilingual and I only speak to them in Spanish.

Why did you decide to raise bilingual children?

For me, it was important that my children have a connection to their culture through language, and that they be able to communicate with their grandparents and other Spanish-speaking members of the community. Aside from the cognitive benefits, it’s important to us that we give them this valuable opportunity to be multilingual in a country where Spanish is becoming such a dominant language. And with increasing business opportunities developing throughout Latin America, it's nice to know that our kids will have the skills to develop their careers and lives in that environment, if they choose to.

What has kept you motivated?

I am motivated by my children's progress in both languages and how it benefits their education and cultural growth. It also makes me happy to see them interacting so closely with my parents and with other people in the community whose dominant language is Spanish. It makes me want to continue to help them grow – it makes it all worthwhile! (Also, I am stubborn, and I don't like to be told that something is not going to work!)

I would like for everyone to see what the power of language looks like and for my children to feel proud of their heritage.

Any words of advice for our community?

You should never worry about being embarrassed or offending anyone by communicating with your child in the language of your choice. I know that it's hard to keep it going every single day, but the benefits are so great that all of the effort is worth it.

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