Raising Bilingual Children? This is How We Achieved It
Buenos días! Today’s blog is a special one because Señora Jackie herself is going to join us for an exclusive interview sharing her experience on raising bilingual children.
Welcome Señora Jackie!
“Gracias! It’s good to be here.”
Can you please tell us a bit of your background and the languages you spoke growing up?
Sure! I was born in New York where I spoke both English and Spanish. My family moved to Caracas, Venezuela and eventually to Paris, France where we spoke Spanish at home and French in the community. My father used to charge my siblings and I one penny per each word we spoke English when we were supposed to speak Spanish at home. While in France, I earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Modern Languages.
Fast forward a few years, and I went to a university in Bogotá, Colombia to pursue a Masters in International Relations. That’s where I met my wonderful husband William. We settled down in Bogotá, had three beautiful children, and then decided to migrate to the United States in 2006.
Did you speak English and Spanish with your family while in Bogotá, Colombia?
No, I didn’t speak English at home. But my children were bilingual because they attended a French school and my husband studied in Brazil where he learned Portuguese. We never thought we would one day move to the United States.
When you decided you were going to move to the US, what did you do to encourage your children learn English?
Before we moved to the US, I encouraged my son and daughter to watch English television shows like “Between the Lions” with English subtitles so they could learn how to have better grammar. They also listened to music and while reading the lyrics, they could understand the meaning behind the words. When we arrived to the US, the children were placed in English Language Development (ELD) classes. I was very involved in the school because I wanted to help them and even created a Parent Center where all other immigrant parents could come and ask for help in their own language.
Wow, you really jumped right in when you got here to the US! What did your children do for themselves to learn English?
ELD teachers encouraged the students to have friends that did not speak their same language. My son and daughter also read a lot of children’s books to gain vocabulary. My daughter listened to rap and hip hop because she said it sounded like poetry with a beat and wrote a lot of fiction stories. She would have her teachers correct the stories in order to learn from her mistakes. Here’s what my daughter told me one time when we were talking about past memories: “The best thing I did to learn English was using the words I would learn and try to use them to communicate with others. Expressing my feelings and my fears was very important. I did this a lot with the help of the lyrics of songs and writing stories to share.
Sounds like your kids jumped right in, too. To conclude this interview, can you share with our readers any tips or suggestions you have for raising bilingual children?
Absolutely. My suggestion for raising bilingual children is to love the culture more than the language and it will outlive you and you’ll raise well rounded, engaged, outstanding and compassionate individuals.
That concludes our interview for the day. Gracias Señora Jackie for your time and we hope both you and our readers have a wonderful day. Till next time!