Monolingual Parents Raising Bilingual Children
A literary overview featuring the book Raising Bilingual Children: A Practical Guide by Marietere Rodriguez Bellas. Find 101 tips from a bilingual & bicultural parenting expert ranging from what can be done at home to choosing the right school for a bilingual child.
This book is filled with interviews with experts in the field as well as stories from families raising bilingual children. I found the entire book interesting, like all my other book overviews I have chosen some parts to focus on and always encourage you to read the books in their entirety to gain even more insight as caregivers of bilingual little ones. The first five chapters cover tips, interviews, and case studies of how to begin your bilingual journey, target language use and exposure in the home, schooling options for bilingual children, and using the target language to connect. My focus for this book review will be on Chapter 6: Speaking the Language When Its Not Native to You. There is a plethora of information and inspiration throughout the other chapters, but I chose to focus on the last chapter because I felt it was the most unique take-away from the books I've read so far.
The chapter starts off by touching upon common concerns monolingual parents tend to have when making the choice to raise a bilingual child. Some are addressed below:
1. Feeling Awkward When Speaking the Target Language
If you begin the introduction of a new language since birth, babies and toddlers have a limited vocabulary as is and are focused on the sounds and rhythms of the language. You can simply learn and expand your vocabulary as the child grows. Also, making the effort to find additional resources to help promote the language goes a long way.
2. Extended Family Complaints/Concerns
Having the support of extended family when it comes to using or practicing the target language may be helpful, but ultimately it is not necessary. Surround your family with others who are supportive of your decision. The decision to raise a bilingual child is up to the parents/caregivers so don't let negativity question your parenting choice. Regardless, extended family will always love your children and their connection with your children (in whatever language) is important.
3. Bonding With a Bilingual Child
Bonding is so much more than language. Verbal appreciation and affirmations can be in any language you wish to share with your child. Other non-verbal bonding experiences consist of hugging, sharing, and closeness.
4. Children's Friends Don't Understand
Explaining to other children that your kids speak a different language in order to communicate with others usually can solve this issue. Children show interest in something new, and are usually fine with a simple explanation.
5. Family Friends Don't Understand
Similar to addressing concerns from family members, your parenting choices are your own. What you can do is share with others the importance of bilingualism in your family and home. You can share your inspiration, your family background, or benefits you see in being bilingual. All in all, you can give your explanation and move on, perhaps they may eventually become inspired by your initiative!
The chapter ends with a list of 15 tips, I have chosen five:
Tip #87: Choose a language you have easy access to - stores, markets, restaurants, or schools will help reinforce the language.
Tip #92: Use the culture of the target language to make things fun - attend festivals or celebrations
Tip #94: Be willing to make mistakes
Tip #96: Emphasize, acknowledge, and affirm how hard your child is working to acquire a second language.
Tip #99: Talk to other parents who are raising bilingual children to exchange ideas, tips, and inspiration that work for each of you.
I encourage you to read this book and Maritere Bellas' second book Arroz Con Pollo and Apple Pie: Raising Bicultural Children for more insight and inspiration. You can also find her blog and web page here.