Sunday, August 22, 2010

Raising the Kids to be Bilingual

You might think that a pair of Canadians raising a child in Mexico means the achieving bilingualism is automatic - taken for granted. That was my thinking when we chose to have a baby. After 14 months, it's proving to be more work than I thought, but not an impossible challenge.

We speak mostly English in the home with Stella, though reading time is a mix of both as we've collected an enormous library of children's books written in both English and Spanish. I've been using select programming from Nick Jr, a channel carried on Sky (Mexican satellite tv provider). Dora la Exploradora and a few other programs that are 90% Spanish. We also have a nanny that watches Stella when both mom and dad are at work (about 40% of the year) and she speaks 100% Spanish. So, it looks like we have all the right tools in place.

Stella is not talking yet...a few words here in there, and lots of ba-ba-babble. I'm told that kids raised in a bilingual environment will normally take a bit longer to start speaking so no worries as yet. What I'm most impressed with is her ability to understand either language.

Whether it's Spanish or English -though mostly English - Stella demonstrates a very understanding of what's said to her. "Please bring daddy the ball" is answered quickly by her looking for the ball (among a mountain of toys) and bringing it to daddy. Using some Spanish like "donde esta la pelota?" is producing the same result.

It will be interesting to see what her first phrases are, beyond the yes/no, hi/bye, mama/papa words she's already using. I am hoping it won't be something like:

"Papa, here's the pelota. Donde esta my bottle of leche?"

But even if it is, I'll still be happy.

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