At the age of seven, my mother uprooted us to chase the American Dream. She relocated us from Chihuahua, Mexico (yes; Chihuahua- like the dog) to a small Colorado town by the name of Glenwood Springs. At this time, Glenwood consisted of primarily English speakers. I was thrown into the school system knowing no English. As a result of culture shock, a great English as a Second Language program, and Rosetta Stone, I was fortunate enough to quickly became fluent in English.
While my days consisted of focusing on learning English, speaking anything other than Spanish at home, was “forbidden.” My mother insisted she did not want me to forget my roots and speaking proper Spanish was critical. Keep in mind, the majority of my family remained in Mexico and forgetting my native tongue would sever my only means of communication.
Now as an adult with my family of my own, I couldn’t be more grateful for my mother’s rule. The importance of being fluent in a second language is stronger than ever. The majority of my family remains in Mexico, and my children knowing how to speak Spanish means they’ll be able to communicate with my immediate family. Not to mention, the US currently has the second largest population of Spanish speakers.
At first, knowing how to expose my children to the language felt overwhelming. A friend who studied linguistics early on taught me about “One parent, one language.” My native language is Spanish; therefore, I only speak Spanish to my children. My husband focuses on English. Since that day, I have made the conscious effort to only speak Spanish to my girls. It’s not always easy and there are moments that I slip up. One parent, one language started becoming more difficult when I noticed our eldest daughter seemed to have a greater understanding of English than Spanish.
While speaking only Spanish hasn’t always been easy, especially when my husband is only an English speaker, we have continued to push and seek additional resources. We ultimately made the decision to enroll our daughter in a Spanish immersion institution. This has helped reinforce her exposure to Spanish. Since enrollment, we have seen her take off. She has gained greater confidence in her knowledge and understanding of the language, surprises us daily by saying new words and is even carrying on conversations.
While one parent, one language is one of the biggest tools we use, there are many resources that have helped my family integrate Spanish into our day to day lives. Some of them include:
- Changing the language on movies and/or tv shows to Spanish to increase exposure;
- For birthdays and holidays, request Spanish books for story time;
- YouTube: RockAlingua; 123andres, and Baila Baila are great for interactive learning;
- com has great work sheets and videos. The worksheets are free or have a small charge.
- Spanish games such as La Loteria (like bingo) and flash card games.
For any parent out there trying to raise their children bilingual, I can’t promise it’ll be easy but it’s so worth it. Above all, know that you’re doing a great job and it will come!
Karen relocated from Colorado to Arizona in 2014. She currently resides in Chandler, Arizona with her husband, two daughters (18 mo & 4 year old), and yellow lab. Karen has been a paralegal for 12+ years. In her spare time, she enjoys baking, travel and quality time with loved ones.