¿tienes hambre?…are you hungry?
siéntate …sit down
¡ten cuidado!… be careful
te quiero…I love you
These are just a few phrases you’ll hear me say to my toddler as we go through each day. My husband and I are raising him to be bilingual, which is awesome and challenging all at the same time, since I am also learning Spanish.
My husband is from Spain and a Spanish teacher, so it’s our goal to have a truly bilingual child. So far, it’s going better than we could have imagined. My husband only speaks to our son in Spanish. I speak what I can, like everyday greetings, commands and questions, and speak the rest in English.
We focus almost all of the major teaching moments in Spanish like colors, animals and numbers. But when it comes to hitting, biting and sharing we use both languages so he’ll understand no matter who is speaking to him.
He’s in daycare three days a week where he learns in English. It’s amazing how at the age of two, he gets it. For instance, when friends recently babysat, they started counting in Spanish and he responded by counting in English. When they offered leche and he told them he wanted milk. He doesn’t say these things in English to my husband and me. It’s incredible that he’s aware of the different languages and is already able to switch back and fourth.
We know it will be a challenge as he gets older, but we also know it will be worth it. Knowing more than one language is great for brain development and it will open up doors for him in the future.
While not everyone has 24/7 access to a Spanish speaker, there are still ways to expose your children to other languages from a young age.
Pick something to focus on, whether it be colors, numbers etc. and just repeat. When Nico was just a few weeks old, we started counting in Spanish every time we walked up or down the stairs with him. One day he just started counting with us. After hearing the numbers for months and months, it clicked.
2. Read bilingual books
You have to seek them out, but there are books that have both Spanish and English on the pages. I love these books because I also learn and see a visual along with the word in both languages. Barnes and Noble has a small bilingual section in the children’s area.
3. Community Exposure
There are some bilingual programs offered in town. The Wichita Public Library has a bilingual storytime on Wednesdays and Exploration Place does a Spanish program once a month. These programs are a great way to meet new dual language families, to increase your child’s exposure.
4. Watch TV programs in Spanish
We limit screen time, but 90% of the TV Nico watches is in Spanish. Univision has Spanish cartoons on Saturday mornings. You can also rent videos like Mickey Mouse Club or Dinosaur Train from the library and most come with a Spanish audio track. Parent Bonus :: put the subtitles on in English so you get a lesson too!