Hi, everyone! I’m Mia and I’m an American living in Spain. I’m married to a Spaniard, so obviously Spanish will be the majority language, with English being the minority.
It’s very important to me for my daughter (just born a few months ago) to learn English, so she can communicate with my family back home. The only thing I worry about with me only speaking in my native language is that I won’t be able to study Spanish enough anymore. I really need to improve my Spanish speaking skills for future work and studying at the local university, but I’m not sure how to go about this without hindering my daughter’s learning of English. Any tips on how to achieve fluency for both of us? My husband is fluent in English, and we usually default to English because we met while living in an English-speaking country, but we need to start making sure she is also hearing Spanish. It’s been tough trying to transition!
Anyway, that’s just a little about me and my family. I can’t wait to dig more into the book, and get to know everyone here!
I am extremely biased and will say to go ml@home (minority language at home) because your daughter will inevitably pick up the Majority Language (ML). The ML is a monster you cannot fight off. I often compare our situation as David facing Goliath. And no later than this morning I found this interesting Instagram post that sums up raising kids bilingual pretty well: "Bringing up kids with more than one language is bloody hard work."
As for your Spanish fluency, I would suggest you work on it without your child around. Use Spanish with your husband when baby is sleeping, but not in front of her. You need to create the need (one of the 2 core pillars to bilingual education) in her to use English with you and if she hears you speaking Spanish like everybody else she is likely to think "why bother using that odd language when she can speak like everyone else?". That is our personal experience with our eldest (and we are still playing catch up) and many bilingual parents have experienced this too, especially when kids begin their ML schooling.
Adam Beck even went as far as to fake for years he could not speak Japanese well in front of his kids, just to create that need for them to use English.
There is also the need to create exposure (2nd pillar) to the minority language. So if you go ml@home your baby will get twice as much exposure (you + hubby) than if it were you alone.
What will also help with your bilingual education in the long run is bathing your daughter in an English-speaking community, exposing her to other English speakers. She'll see that using English is normal and will be less likely to resist it. It will also expose her to the different ways of speaking English, since as individuals we have our very own and repetitive way of speaking.
Final tip: Get Adam's book to be ready for this very long and bumpy road.
Mia, welcome! And congratulations to you and your husband on the birth of your first child and the beginning of your bilingual journey!
I empathize with your desire to continue improving your ability in the majority language while nurturing your daughter's progress in the minority language. Balancing both aims is certainly possible, but it's important to be disciplined about your use of Spanish because, as Amy suggested, the more you use Spanish around your daughter, the more this could potentially undermine her need to use English with you once she begins to speak. While that outcome isn't a given, you'll likely raise the odds of successfully fostering her active ability in English by doing what you realistically can to "de-emphasize" your use of Spanish in her presence, especially through these first few formative years.
So the way to effectively balance the two languages, in your life, may be to emphasize Spanish when you're not with your daughter (or when she's asleep) and emphasize English when you are. By doing so, I expect you'll experience satisfying progress in both directions over the months and years ahead. At the same time, since your husband is also fluent in English, this is hugely helpful for promoting your English aim. In fact, maybe you can enjoy the best of both worlds by establishing "domains" of use for the two languages within your family: when it's the three of you, you speak English, and when it's just you and your husband, you speak Spanish. (Your husband can also use Spanish when speaking to her without you, which can provide some early exposure to Spanish, too.)
Mia, I hope these initial thoughts are helpful and I look forward to hearing good news from you as time goes by!
Adam Beck is the founder of Bilingual Monkeys and The Bilingual Zoo, and the author of the popular book Maximize Your Child's Bilingual Ability amzn.to/22XKuCt and the humorous novel How I Lost My Ear amzn.to/2EsjVRS, both available worldwide. Please support The Bilingual Zoo through Adam's Patreon page www.patreon.com/bilingualmonkeys.
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Caro C.: OMG I just came across this song and it filled my heart with joy and excitement...perfect for all of us who are parents: youtu.be/g1fcnhB8GOY
May 19, 2019 14:01:55 GMT 9
Adam Beck: Caro, thanks for sharing that lovely song. Raffi was one of our very favorite musicians when my kids were small. We listened to him all the time. I highly recommend his albums as a source of very enjoyable and very effective English input.
May 20, 2019 15:32:26 GMT 9
Mayken: My daughter is on a field trip this week and I feel like I've lost my main purpose
May 20, 2019 20:03:33 GMT 9
Raquel: That's cute, Mayken. I hope you enjoyed all that extra free time.
May 29, 2019 18:17:39 GMT 9
SheilaC: I am concern about our upcoming big change to Public school with all English teaching and minimal Spanish. We have been lucky until now with Spanish speaking Nanny and Spanish immersion preschool. We are doing 2-day per week with Spanish after school.
May 31, 2019 10:51:49 GMT 9
Amy: @sheilac, I suggest you create an actual thread on the "Questions & Concerns" board, so fellow Zoo Keepers can help you with your concerns. 256 characters is too little to discuss something that is so important to your heart
Jun 2, 2019 23:44:41 GMT 9
Mayken: Adam Beck, thanks for that very interesting and timely post - it justifies the large order for ml books and DVDs I'm about to place in view of my daughters upcoming birthday!
Jun 3, 2019 23:46:00 GMT 9
Adam Beck: Great to hear this, Mayken! And happy birthday to both yours and mine! (They have the same birthday, don't they?) And if anyone missed that post, here's the link once more...
Jun 4, 2019 8:03:42 GMT 9