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Nina Garcia on Raising Bilingual Kids

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As a transplant from Colombia to the U.S.A., it took many years—and some major soul searching—for me to recognize that my bilingual/bicultural background was not only an extremely useful skill, but that it also gave me a unique perspective. Having been through the ups and downs of assimilating to a new culture and finally fully embracing my Latin heritage, I am doing everything in my power to ensure that my children grow up bilingual and feel a sense of pride about this as well.

Teaching my children that there are many, many other worlds outside of what they understand as “normal” will not only give them an advantage in today’s competitive world, but will also make them more well-rounded, tolerant, worldly, and accepting.

Teaching your children how to speak even one language can be challenging, much less two.

As studies have shown and practice has proven, the benefits of being bilingual are endless. In today’s world, where the Internet has practically shattered all barriers, it is essential that we arm our children with the necessary tools to succeed in a global world. Not to mention that a multilingual brain is much more active, and learning another language is considered one of the best exercises that will help your child in the overall learning process.

But teaching your children how to speak even one language can be challenging, much less two, and trying to get them to appreciate it is another story altogether. Even so, I encourage you to approach it as a welcome challenge, and to begin this learning process as early on as possible. Researchers have repeatedly said that children learn languages faster than adults, so use this time wisely!

Three concepts that I found extremely helpful in regard to raising bilingual children and in life in general are cultural contextualization, authenticity and, of course, the fun factor.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to spend a lot of time and money on traveling or expensive immersion programs. Instead, I encourage you to take advantage of the many tools that are readily available and to incorporate bits of history, culture and perspective to help your child make sense of the language while still having fun along the way.

Here is my breakdown of tools that I have used and found to be incredibly helpful:

Paid Programs:

Rosetta Stone or Live Mocha

Apps:

Duolingo, FlipApp or Dic-Dic

Free Sites:

Voyager Kids or Busuu.

TV:

All TVs are equipped with bilingual choices. While I am not a huge proponent of having my kids in front of TV, when they are watching Jake and the Neverland Pirates, Elmo or Thomas, I hit the SAP channel and it will be in Spanish.

Of course, it is always important to tailor your method to your child’s needs, so staying open-minded and using multiple techniques is crucial to this process, as is staying positive. On that note, I look forward to hearing about your experiences and methods. As I am known to say, there is always more to learn.

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