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Bilingual Mom: Pilar DeNardo

This bilingual mama is part of our MamaLingua online community. An immigrant to the United States, she came to pursue her own “American dream.” Like so many who come to this country, it wasn’t an easy transition for Pilar. Read about her commitment to learn English and raise her kids bilingual.

What's your bilingual story?

I was born in Spain but lived almost all of my life in Peru. I moved to Los Angeles when I was 20 years old to pursue my American dream.

After graduating college, seeing my single mother suffer financially, and going through a tough breakup, I decided to move abroad on my own. I always wanted to learn English; I knew it was going to be a hard journey, but I was committed. When I came to the States, I didn’t speak English, so I enrolled at a community college. The community college immersed me in American life and language.

While attending school, I worked with children. My first job was a painful but memorable experience: I was there to care for my employer’s children, but I was also expected to be her housekeeper. She treated me with disrespect because I didn't speak English – as if I were mentally impaired. That experience made me stronger and more determined to learn the language.

I continued to work as a nanny and babysitter because I loved working with kids – and they were my teachers. They taught me pronunciation and everyday words and phrases that helped me communicate on a daily basis. At night, I attended classes and received a more formal language education.

I came to America with one piece of luggage. I now have an MA in bilingual education and I teach children in a dual immersion program. I teach Spanish to kids and help them become bilingual – like they helped me become bilingual.

Why did you decide to raise bilingual children?

All of my family is either in Spain or Peru. If I wanted my children to speak to my family, I had to teach them Spanish. I want my boys to be connected to my culture and to know the importance of bilingualism.

What has kept you motivated?

I have a love of learning and I enjoy facing new challenges. I was able to become bilingual, and now it's my children’s turn. Knowing that my kids will be able to speak two languages and won’t have to go through what I went through keeps me going. Someday they will be grown men, able to teach their children as well.

Any words of advice for our community?

Introduce your children to a second language early; it’s important for their future. Travel. Let your kids experience other cultures and languages. If travel isn’t possible, do it virtually. Make friends from other countries and immerse yourself and your children in learning about other cultures and languages.

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