Latinx Community Raising Bilingual Children

Ever since I decided to raise my daughters in a bilingual world I knew that I didn’t fit the profile of the many “how to raise a bilingual child”  books I was reading. First, the “one parent one language” (OPOL) method wasn’t a right fit because both my husband and I are bilingual. The “minority language at home”(M@LH) method also did not fit because it is simply not how we identify as bilinguals. I decided to draw from a second language acquisition theory referred to as input/output theory. My main goal was to expose my daughter to as much Spanish as possible. The only challenge was that my husband and I spoke to each other in English–not exactly the OPOL or MLH method. For us it looked more like–English  to each other, Spanish with our daughter– ~100% of the time. What ended up happening? The first 2 1/2 years of her life she was Spanish-dominant.

During this time I was also in graduate school pursuing a PhD in bilingual/bicultural education. It was through that experience that I began to change my approach as to how I, a bilingual Latina, born and raised in the U.S., chose to expose my daughter to her heritage language, Spanish. I went from saying, “Hablame en espanol” to “Habla los dos idiomas porque eres bilingue.” What I’m trying to say is that our approach was and is different. It is a reflection of how we “do being bilingual.” The  OPOL or ML@H methods are grounded in this idea that languages should never make contact, but in reality they do. These methods are ones that are supported by the dominant group in the U.S.–a group who recently has decided to try and raise bilingual kids, too. Don’t get me wrong, this is a good thing. This is, in many ways, a bilingual dream come true. The problem I have with it is that the ways my daughter and I “do being bilingual” as members of a Latinx community are not being supported in school sanctioned zones because monolingual English-speaking students need and expect full immersion in Spanish. The second issue is that dual language programs are on the rise and many more are using a lottery system  to accept individuals. This seems like a “fair” method, but in reality it’s not. Spanish is now a product that families want for their children while Latinx families have been trying to pass down their heritage language (many times) with great difficulty because of the power English has in the U.S. If it were up to me the Latinx community would get preference in dual language programs.

Had someone told me that what I learned about bilingual education, language acquisition, language policy, etc, would look and feel so much different in practice I probably would not have believed them. I see the problem with the “preferential” treatment, but when institutional racism and privilege exists drastic thoughts surface. Unfortunately, this idea of the Lartinx community getting preferential treatment in dual language programs will( likely) never be manifested because we have a system in place that privileges those in power.

For more about this topic please read Guadalupe’s Valdes’ cautionary note.

 

 

 

Appropriating Whiteness by Accident.

I didn’t do it on purpose. I mean I may have started to enunciate my words a certain way in middle school because “the way I spoke” was commented on a few times by white peers, but I swear I didn’t seek out to appropriate a white accent or mannerisms.

I also didn’t purposely choose to “act white”. I changed the music I listened to because we moved to another city (eventually another state)  and the R&B, hip hop, and rap music I listened to which included lyrics that brought issues that mattered to my Latina heart and soul to the forefront were no longer on the radio. All I heard was what they call gangsta’ rap. The music I grew up up listening to was no longer in spaces where diverse people of color were found dancing together.

I didn’t purposely choose to live in white spaces. My mom decided to move us to another city because the one we were living in was “too dangerous” and was worried that as a single mother she would have a harder time keeping up with 3 young girls.

So we moved.

We moved from a city that valued my Latina heritage to one where the Latinxs I saw were considered “the help”.

I also didn’t pick my name, “Suzanne”. Sara and Rafael thought it was a beautiful name in the 70s and one that seemed to belong to their daughter. I didn’t know that when “Suzanne” is combined with “Mateus” that people would assume I am white. I didn’t know.

I didn’t know that because I selectively choose who to speak Spanish to that I would be considered white. I take speaking Spanish very personally because of how highly stigmatized it became for me to speak it growing up como una “pocha”. To this day, you have to earn my trust and we have to have a certain level of intimacy as friends before I will utter a single word in Spanish to you.

I didn’t know that my distance between speaking Spanish and who I choose to speak it with would deem me as “white” or “acting white”. I didn’t know.

I didn’t appropriate whiteness on purpose. It was imposed on me by issues larger than you and I. It was a form of colonialism on my own identity.

A Bilingual Journey of Spanish and English. Guest Post by Diana Sampedro

My name is Diana, I am a Spanish mum of a 6 year old girl, and we live in Spain. Her dad is Spanish, too. I love languages and speak English so I decided to raise my kid bilingual, even though I am not a “native” English speaker myself.

I think babies and kids have the natural capacity to simply repeat whatever you tell them, so I thought, why not try to give my daughter the chance to learn two languages in a natural and effortless way? Since I had the motivation I could find the tools I needed back then and the ones I could not find, I created them myself. I wrote a book about this. Baby English: Cómo conseguir que tu hijo sea bilingüe. Published by Vaughan system, 2016. I ´ll come back to it later.

I was living in the UK when I got pregnant. I used to attend to some mum-to-be groups and playgroups and I met some multilingual families. I started getting familiar with babies English vocabulary and I was amazed to see that some little kids could communicate in more than one language with their parents.

I decided to speak English to my daughter. She was born in Spain. But even when she was still in my belly I used to sing to her lullabies and talked to her in English, just to get used to both of us! I think this is really important when you talk to your child in a non native language, you both need time to get comfortable, and guess what, you will!

When my daughter was a baby, I used to write a blog about maternity and bilingual education. I posted vocabulary and ideas and personal experiences in my non-native bilingual journey with her.

But my baby was so little, she needed me, and blogging can be a huge commitment, so I decided to quit and focus more on her, and on having some family and some me-time

However, every day I had these doubts about vocabulary, Am I doing the right thing? Is this going to work?…and some years later I started to write about all of that and the solutions I was coming across with. You know, I love reading, I love writing.

THE BOOK: BABY ENGLISH: CÓMO CONSEGUIR QUE TU HIJO SEA BILINGÜE.

One day I told myself, why not writing a book? This could be the kind of book I was looking for before starting this bilingual project.

Because out there in the market you can find some very good books about bilingualism, but it was hard to find a book that actually helps couples who are not native speakers in one of the language they want to teach their kids. And I needed to know how to say for instance, “Mete la camiseta por dentro”, that is “Tuck your T-shirt in”, for example. O “Te echo una carrera”, “I´ll race you”, for example.

This book is perfect for Spanish speakers who want their kids being bilingual or very fluent in both Spanish and English

There are so many situations in a day with a child in different contexts and on the book you´ll find all these useful phrases, songs, games, both in English and Spanish and with an audio to check the right pronunciation. There are rhymes, games, tricks to improve your English for Spanish speakers, the evolution in the language of a bilingual kid…

There is also a chapter about reading in English and how to help children to get used to the English sounds.

BILINGUALISM

Everybody talks about bilingualism nowadays. There are some benefits about bilingualism that I can mention. I am not an academic so I cannot speak about the advantages of bilingualism in a scientific way but I have been reading more and more articles about benefits of being a bilingual.

What I can talk about it is the easiness you find when travelling, living in another country if you are able to speak more than your native language. You have a better and deeper access to other cultures, other interesting ways of living, thinking.

It also offers you the chance to see reality from a different perspective, and I guess that can have a good impact in the way you interact with the world. It gives you an open approach, a curiosity, a connection with your feelings in a wider way.

As I mentioned before, at the end of the day the main and most beautiful thing related to your children and you is to connect with them, to feel close and loved, through words, (languages), and actions.

Thanks Suzanne for the opportunity to share my experience and congrats on you blog.

If you want to contact me or know more about my story, please go to:

www.facebook.com/babyenglishdianasampedro

If you interested in purchasing Diana’s book, please go to:

http://www.casadellibro.com/libro-baby-english/9788416094769/2795572

https://www.amazon.es/gp/product/8416094764/ref=s9_simh_gw_g14_i1_r?pf_rd_m=A1AT7YVPFBWXBL&pf_rd_s=desktop-1&pf_rd_r=BXBPCT98Q39QVF398BAM&pf_rd_t=36701&pf_rd_p=6d8f0343-6251-45c8-9899-ea554850c331&pf_rd_i=desktop

I am happy to introduce our first guest post on the blog Interpretations of a Bilingual Life. Diana seems to have done an amazing job raising a bilingual child. I identified with her story because as a mother raising 2 bilingual daughters I have found myself feeling insecure about my Spanish because I never studied it in a school setting. Her and my personal experience are examples that there are multiple paths to bilingualism.

baby english portadaDiana y Diana

* If you are interested in writing a guest post for Interpretations of a Bilingual Life please feel free to email me at suzanne@mateus.com

Multilingual Education: California Education for a Global Economy Initiative (California EdGE Initiative)/Senate Bill (SB) 1174

This post is about Senate Bill 1174 which would repeal and amend proposition 227 of 1998 in the state of California. Proposition 227 ended bilingual education services for students who did not speak English. The new bill would provide services for ALL students in the state of California that would put them on the path to becoming bilingual.

I’m in the middle of writing the findings chapters of my dissertation, so this post is not as developed as I would like. What I am going to do is list websites below that talk about the upcoming SB 1174 in order to help spread the word. My goal is to include a diverse set of website that offers different perspectives:

https://ballotpedia.org/California_Multilingual_Education_Act_%282016%29

http://www.cnn.com/2014/03/04/opinion/carter-bilingual-education/index.html

http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201320140SB1174

http://www.latimes.com/local/political/la-me-pc-calif-senate-panel-advances-bill-to-restore-bilingual-education-20140430-story.html

http://sd33.senate.ca.gov/news/2014-02-20-senator-lara-announces-bill-supporting-multilingual-education

http://moramodules.com/sb-1174-talking-points

Click to access sb_1174_bill_20140423_amended_sen_v98.pdf

Video about the bill by Senator Lara:

I will continue to add to the list.

The one aspect about this SB 1174 that I, as well as many other advocates of our heritage speakers of Spanish in the U.S.A., would like to point out is that the promotion of this senate bill fails to mention the cultural and linguistic benefits it can have for the population it was initially intended for.

#roughdraft