Category Archives: Bilingual Experiences

How to choose the best foreign language school for your child.

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Has this crossed your mind? Are you in the process of trying to find a foreign language school for your child? This topic is one I have been thinking a lot about for several years. As a former teacher I often times sought out the ideal settings to teach Spanish or English in and what I have come to realize are many things that make a great way to learn another language. I am in the process of drafting an e-book about the characteristics that make a foreign language school/experience the best for YOUR child. In other words, just like many parents spend time and money scoping out schools, in general, the parent who has learning a second or third language a priority for their child also has special interests and important decisions to consider and make.

In my opinion, there are so many things to consider, but the problem the parent who has learning another language as top priority also has the added challenge of being limited by the number of schools to choose from in any city they may live in. It is, unfortunately, a situation very common in the US.

I am writing this post to get an idea about the specific interests parents have when looking into foreign language schools in their community. I’d like to offer my unique perspective, not only as a parent who shares the same interest in finding the perfect foreign language school, but as a doctoral student who knows about some of the most optimal methodologies to teach/learn another language.

Please share some of your specific interests/concerns when looking into foreign language schools.

Speaking Spanish brings out the best in people…

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The older Sabrina gets the more Spanish I speak. The more she learns to interact, the more I use Spanish—-sounds normal, right? Well the scenarios I am about to describe in the paragraphs below are beyond normal. Let me preface the stories with, when Sabrina was first born I was having a hard time (for many new-mommy reasons) making the effort to communicate with her in Spanish. Now, thankfully, it seems to fill our days and routines, although never did I imagine I would encounter scenarios like the ones I am about to share.

What I am starting to realize is that other people are noticing, more and more, that we are not speaking the dominant language–English. Speaking in Spanish to my baby girl is bringing out the best in strangers. Let me give you a glimpse…

The other day we were grocery shopping at a pretty popular market. It’s the kind of market that serves gourmet, chef-prepared foods—such a delight. We were actually walking passed the chef-prepared food aisle–I like to admire the food and dream about buying it guilt-free. At any rate, this man noticed that I was speaking to Sabrina in Spanish—I think I was saying something like, “No, Sabrina. No toques eso. No es juguete mi amor.” She was reaching for an odd shaped box with some sort of specialty bread in it. This was happening while I was also admiring the food when an older man turns to me, holding chef-prepared green salsa enchiladas in his hand, he looks at me with a sincere smile, and says, “This looks like something you may like.” WOW. I was shocked. I wasn’t offended because he was so sweet about it, in a way. Now, I may be totally off here, in that he may have uttered the same sentence had I been speaking in English. The thing is—me speaking in Spanish and strangers making comments about it, either directly or indirectly, is starting to become a pattern. Some of the readers may even blame it on the fact that I live in Texas, a predominately conservative state. Here’s the thing. I have experienced instances like these when I lived in a “liberal” state, too. I grew up in Orange County, CA and experienced similar stereotyped comments growing up all the time–at least it seemed like it was all the time. Can you believe that I was I was once asked (when I lived in a predominately white city in SoCal) where it was that I tanned!

So, the second scenario where me speaking Spanish has brought out the best in someone happened about a month ago. This one left me feeling shocked, yet a little hurt as well. I was in another grocery store. This one is just a traditional market. My abuelita was with me and I was speaking in Spanish with her, my daughter, and subsequently with the lady behind me in line. I can’t remember what my abuelita and I were talking about, probably about the food we had just bought. She wanted to make arroz mexicana. I had purchased some wine and the cashier starts motioning to me as if she were driving and saying “drivers license, drivers license.” I realized quickly that she didn’t know I could speak English as well which is totally fine. It’s her second comment that really upset me and I probably should have called her out on it right away. She, then, said to me (as I was taking out my drivers license and continuing to talk with my abuelita), “English, please. English!” I was, again, shocked. Interestingly, right at that same moment the lady behind (who knew English and Spanish) said, “Que linda es su bebita. Cuantos meses tiene?” In fact, now that I think about it I think she asked me that to, in her own way, tell the cashier that we can speak whatever it is we want. We weren’t even speaking to the cashier! The cashier, once again, said, “English, please. ENGLISH.” I proceeded to swipe my credit card on the machine, looked her in the eye and said (because she still thought I only knew Spanish), “Actually I can speak in either one, English or Spanish. I can speak both.”

What are some experiences you have had speaking a minority language in a majority-language context?

Crib Bilingual vs. School Bilingual

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There are various routes one can take to become bilingual. Since I have made an effort to raise my daughter with at least 2 languages I have learned mine is just one way, and really, there are multiple ways to becoming bilingual. I consider myself a “crib bilingual” in that my parents native language is Spanish. Spanish filled our home, our lives effortlessly. I, on the other hand, find myself stumbling over some Spanish words when speaking with my daughter. Like the other day, I realized that I did not know the words for earlobe or nostril!

As I mentioned earlier, there are various avenues one can take to becoming bilinugual. The difference, though, is to what extent will my daughter be able to speak Spanish in various contexts. This is where I like to think that though she is a crib bilingual, she will also become (which I did not have the opportunity to do) a school bilingual. She will have experienced both Spanish and English  day in, and day out. She will be considered a simultaneous bilingual. That being said, no matter which route you happen to be one, I think individuals that speak more than one language (despite the level of “proficiency”) also develop two language systems…that my friends a whole other realm of language acquisition!

Motherhood, what it has come to mean to me.

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Each day that passes adds to what motherhood has come to mean to me. If you are a mother, you probably have an idea what I mean. There are small moments and larger ones that mark how I have and continue to evolve as mami. When I gave birth 16 + months ago I thought, “Wow, I am a mom.” Although that is true, little did I know that, for me, becoming mami would evolve over the course of probably a life time. I have learned that my role as Sabrina’s mother will continue to change, sure some parts of my identity as a mother will remain the same, but in the end she will need be to be different for each phase of her life.

What I love about motherhood is that there is an instant community of women who are there to offer advice, to help you co-mother, and to guide you along the way. Oddly enough, I have also learned that this instant community can also be…hmm…somewhat of a nuisance. Being a mother can make you hold firm that the way YOU are raising your baby must be a really good way, some would say the best way to raise children. That being said, what motherhood has come to mean to me, as I have been guilty in viewing my own child rearing practice as a really good idea, is that we all do what is best for OUR children.

In addition, there are certain behaviors that my daughter displays that I may tolerate, but had she been someone else’s daughter, they may not have been tolerated the same way. In other words, I think this idea of tolerating certain behaviors and not others, plays into how parents decide to raise their children. I’ll end this post with, we all have, more or less, different child rearing practices, different ways of being mami. There isn’t a better way, there are only different ways of being mami.