Bilingual Learning: It's a Commitment
Even parents who are deeply committed to helping their child become bilingual can face daily struggles around language. Especially in the early stages of language acquisition, it's natural for children to be stronger in one language than the other. Although they may understand everything they hear in Spanish, many children will still respond in English. But why do they do it?
It’s usually not that they don’t want to speak Spanish. Their brains simply find it easier to recall words in English. If you live in the United States, English is the easier language for children to speak because it’s reinforced in school, in the community, in print and media, and often, with friends and family. It can feel like an uphill climb to continue speaking Spanish when the world around you is English-dominant, but don’t give up! Understanding this behavior is half the battle.
Discuss the importance of speaking Spanish with your kids and highlight the benefits of speaking two languages. So many people, including people your kids know and love, wish that they could speak a second language. Being bilingual is something to be proud of; gaining fluency in a second language opens doors to new and exciting adventures and opportunities! When helping your child along the path to bilingualism, it's important to not only teach them how to speak the language, but why they are learning it.
Teaching language to young learners requires commitment and perseverance. When they respond in English, translate what they’ve said and repeat it back to them in Spanish. Often, they will repeat the translation, reinforcing what they’ve just learned. You may occasionally feel defeated, but you'll see that your commitment is worth it when your child begins using Spanish vocabulary independently and in context.
While your bilingual experience may not be exactly what you imagined, keep narrating what you know. Repeat it and it will stick. One day, they will embrace the idea of learning a new language and continue to perfect what they first learned from you.
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