Monday, December 31, 2007

Ways Families Manage Multiple Languages

This article talks about the different approaches families could use to support bilingualism. As mentioned in my previous post, the OPOL and Minority Language at Home approaches do not apply to our family, but the advice on consistency no matter what approach you come up with kindled a ray of hope.

Bilingual Families Connect: "Approaches

What are the different ways families manage multiple languages?

Minority Language at Home
Family members speak the minority language at home (or when together) and the community language when outside the home (or with people who speak only the community language). For example, a family in the United States speaks Spanish (minority language) when they are together but English (community language) outside of the home with non-Spanish speakers.

In dual-parent households, this approach requires that both parents are comfortable speaking the minority language to their children. Typically, they are either native speakers of the minority language or fluent non-native speakers. In some cases children have relatively equal exposure to both languages from the start (for example, English at daycare and Spanish at home) and in other cases children have limited exposure to the community language until they start school. Want to read advice from other parents?

One Parent One Language (OPOL)
Each parent speaks their own native language to the children. For example, the mother, a native French-speaker, speaks French to the children and the father, a native English-speaker, speaks English to the children.

Ideally, both parents need to have at least some ability in the minority language to make this a viable..." (Read more)

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.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Welcome to My Spanish Lesson Plans for Children Blog!

Hello and Happy New Year!

I’m usually not one to make New Year’s resolutions, BUT…our family has decided to buckle down and re-commit ourselves to learning to speak Spanish.

Our English/Spanish bilingual journey began a little over 5 years ago when our first daughter, Jaida, was born. With my limited Spanish knowledge from junior high school and college, I was able to teach her common Spanish vocabulary words. I’ll talk more about what I taught her and the approach we used at another time. Over the years, though, my husband and I sort of got stuck because we don’t speak Spanish fluently. And as our family grew (twin daughters and then a son), keeping up with teaching the children Spanish became a real challenge.

Still, I refuse to let go of my dream to raise my children to be bilingual and become bilingual myself. Ever since I was a kid I was always fascinated by how someone could communicate in 2 (or more) languages. “How do they do that?” I’d wonder. “How do they switch from one language to the other?" “I want to do that too.” I resolved.

Here’s some of my Spanish-learning background. I was so determined to learn Spanish that I did extremely well in my Spanish classes in junior high school. I even won the silver Spanish award at graduation. Unfortunately, I was not allowed to take Spanish in high school because I had already passed the Spanish Regents. By the time I took up Spanish again in college, I did well enough to pass on tests and writing assignments, but speaking Spanish and understanding spoken Spanish was not happening so well. My husband, BTW, took French in high school, so the Spanish he knows, he learned from me.

Is it possible for us, native English-speaking parents to teach our children Spanish?

We believe so.

Hence the purpose of this blog--to chronicle our journey on how we (English-only speakers) are teaching our children Spanish. I’m not talking about a Spanish word here or there or Dora and Diego Spanish. Our children will speak English and be effective, confident conversational Spanish speakers (us too.)

I'll be sharing with you the wealth of research and resources I've gathered to help my husband and I teach our children a second language. I'll post the fun, interactive and yet simple Spanish lesson plans I've written to teach my children
(there's 4 of them: a kindergartener, twin preschoolers, and a toddler) during our "Spanish Time."

Is your situation like ours? Are you raising your children to speak in a language that’s not your native tongue? Let us know how you do it!

Or, if you would like to teach your child Spanish as a second language and are not sure how, I hope this blog will encourage you, inspire you, and give you the support you need to get started and keep it going.