Before I got pregnant with my one-and-only girl, I never gave the concept of “raising a bilingual child” much thought. All I knew was that my husband and I both spoke Spanish to each other and as a first choice among friends, and that we would naturally speak Spanish to our daughter. But not with a laid-out plan or a specific method because, well, that’s just so not our style! I guess we naively thought the Spanish-fluency gene would automatically be passed on to her at birth, just like my curls and her dad’s blond looks would be.
But once she was born and we delved into an almost helicopter parenting mode, we began to ask ourselves some of the same questions many families ask themselves about raising bilingual children. Would hearing more than one language from birth be confusing for a child’s seemingly small, undeveloped brain? Would it put her at a cognitive and social disadvantage? Is there even any real benefit whatsoever to make it worth the hard work of raising a bilingual child? We knew in our hearts that raising our daughter in two languages would be good for her, but was there any solid evidence to back that up? That’s when the parenting books, websites and blogs came in—not that we found a whole lot of information out there for bilingual families at that time.
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At 15 months, Camila started spitting out words like crazy, exactly at the same time she started daycare. And with this came our worries that being exposed to English just when she was starting to learn Spanish, would confuse her to the point that my husband’s nightmares would become a reality. You see, ever since she was born, he has had nightmares about his daughter asking him to take her for a ride in his troka to the marketa. So you can imagine how important an issue her acquisition and fluency of both Spanish and English is in our home. We don’t want her to just understand Spanish and speak back to us in English; we want her to be able to communicate with her grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins in Mexico and El Salvador in their language. We don’t want her to feel embarrassed because she speaks Spanish but speaks it differently.