Monday, December 31, 2007

What We Did to Teach Spanish to Our Daughter

I thought you’d like to know more about what we did to teach Spanish to our first daughter.

After my 2 semesters of Spanish I didn’t pursue learning the language any further. Not until I became pregnant 6 years ago. I vowed that my child would be bilingual in English and Spanish. I bought the Visual Link Spanish program for myself to try to familiarize myself with the language again. I liked the program. It helped me to learn Spanish in sentences—by building the sentences with common Spanish words and phrases.

Before my daughter was born, I researched all over the internet trying to find out how—the best approach for doing what I wanted to do. Hmm, a monolingual parent who wants to raise her child to be bilingual. All of the approaches I came across were somewhat discouraging. One parent, one language (OPOL) says one parent speaks to the child only in the target language, the other one speaks to the child only in the other language. My husband and I only speak English, so that approach was out for us. Then there was Minority Language at Home. Again, this method presupposes that each parent is fluent in different languages. Another option was enrolling your child in a language immersion program or perhaps visiting Spanish-speaking countries on family vacations.

It almost didn't seem fair.

These approaches wouldn't work for our family. We didn't have Spanish-speaking relatives to send our child to or money to go on any vacations. Our only resort was to somehow create a Spanish immersion environment in our home. I bought Spanish Bible songs, Spanish kid videos. I purchased Muzzy. I enrolled in Scholastic’s Bilingual Baby Disney Book club and bought other bilingual books.

I’m not sure exactly how I got this approach, but my husband and I decided to have a Spanish Time—where for 30 minutes a day we only speak Spanish. While I still like that approach, our Spanish was so weak that we couldn’t say much for the 30 minutes. So our main focus was building vocabulary. We'd just name things--body parts, objects, colors, etc.

I wanted Jaida to have more than a word here or there of Spanish. So, I decided to enroll her in Spanish music classes given by Musica Para Mi. The class was fun, active and I learned so much. Now I had songs to sing and actions to do with Jaida at home.

I started taking her at 9 months, I believe. By time she was about 11-13 months, she could point to her nose if someone asked her, “¿Donde está tu nariz?” (Where is your nose?) One of her first words was “aqua.” She would wave goodbye when someone said "adiós" to her.

I was so proud of my baby. And myself (and my husband) because we’re not native speakers and she learned so much from us.

When my daughter was 18 months, I found out that I was pregnant again—with TWINS! We decided to hire a Spanish-speaking babysitter. Patricia. I’ll always remember her. Our family will always be ever so grateful to her. By just watching Patricia interact, play and take care of my Jaida, it helped me learn how to play with her too. Patricia was with us for about 10 months. At that point the twins were 6 months old, and we could no longer keep Patricia. So, we were all on our own again.

The next time we meet, you’ll find out what really got me to get this blog going.

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