Toddler Tuesdays - Raising a Bilingual Child

7:00 AM

What do you guys usually do with your toddlers? What has been the most challenging for you and for your toddler? What has surprised you the most? Well...

We are raising Jax (and of course, Raima too) to be bilingual. Really, it should be multilingual (Spanish, Tagalog, and English) but since I don't have any family around nor have any Filipino friends that can speak Tagalog (pronounced ta-gah-log and not pronounced - tag (as in you're it!)-a-log (as in Lincoln Logs)), it's more difficult for me to nurture that language with my kids, which is sad. I try though, I try. They know some words and phrases, like boob juice/milk  (translated literally it's actually boobs), arm pit, fart, crevices, wait a minute, and so forth (useful phrases, right?). I still try and speak Tagalog once and awhile but should get into more of a habit. It's just hard, like I said, because it isn't constantly around me and so I don't hear the language enough to solidify my own use of it. But when we visit my family in LA, it boosts up my skills and am able to talk more fluently. Being bilingual isn't also just about the learning of a language, but also about learning a culture and a heritage.

So why Spanish? Charlie is an AP Spanish teacher, grew up around Central American families in his home as a kid, and there was that year of living in Spain while studying the language. If that wasn't enough, he also has a Bachelor's degree in it. So, it's kind of a given that speaking Spanish in this house, at least for one of the parents comes easy.

People have always asked us why we chose to be a bilingual home and or if there were any delays in doing so. Mostly, people were afraid that we were going to delay their speech or really that we were confusing them (my family's take on it). This is a common misconception. Which, I was not immune to (not on the confusion part but the speech delay part). As a mom, you always worry about each developmental stage and milestone if they aren't quite reaching it like babycenter is stating, even though there is a sort of disclaimer, you still fear that there is a possibility that there is something wrong with your kid. But it was silly of me to worry, because in just under a year, Jax's language development has skyrocketed and I now can't even remember a time when he didn't talk much at all (except there is this video). And to think I was wishing he would just hurry up and talk already...and now? he won't. stop. talking. His bedtime routine can be extended by at least an hour from his incessant talking (sometimes he just cracks us up, and it is really hard to show our enthusiasm, which only eggs him on). We have now directed him to just lay in his bed and talk to himself and or sing out loud if he wanted to, instead of trying to get our attention and have a conversation with us.

He does speak more English than we would like, but we couldn't afford to keep him enrolled in the Spanish Immersion school he had been attending when I was pregnant with Raima. They didn't offer any sort of discount on siblings and so when a slot opened up at Jax's BFF's (who is also being raised in a bilingual home w/ French & English) daycare, we decided that even though it was an English speaking daycare, that it was the best fit over the other daycares (a couple that were bilingual) we had visited at the time. We've been there over a year now and it's been great. I've heard that most of his friends will be staying all the way up to pre-K or K, so that is somewhat of a relief because we really can't afford pre-school so he's staying put until he gets kicked out!

Anyway, it can be challenging to be bilingual home, but once you get the hang of it, it isn't really. You have to be consistent and be flexible too. Often if Charlie asks Jax a question, Jax will respond in English. So Charlie will ask again, or use Jax's answer and turn it into another question but repeat it in Spanish. And then if that doesn't happen, we just laugh it off and move on. There are times too, if I don't quite understand what he is saying in English, I'll ask him to tell it to me in Spanish - and that works sometimes because then I'll actually decipher what it is he was trying to tell me in English in the first place. Sometimes, Jax will surprise me by singing the alphabet in Spanish, something I didn't even know he could do. Or count past 10 and do so without any prompting.

Most bilingual families plan ahead and decide to designate a parent to speak one language to their child while the other parent speaks another, and then they may even speak an additional one to each other. If you are interested in learning more about raising a bilingual child, check out these lovely blogs:

Ps. I stayed up a few extra hours last night fine tuning this post but some of what I wrote got erased TWICE and then this morning when I checked the post - all the extra fine tuning wasn't there AGAIN, so it got erased a third time! UGH...AND now after almost a month - I noticed the photo glitch..sorry had to remove photos and replace it with something new..wish I could remember which photos they were originally! I'm sure it has something to do with my Picasa album.

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