Merriam Webster's dictionary says a gift is 1. a notable capacity, talent or endowment 2. something voluntarily transferred from one person to another without compensation 3. the act, right or power of giving.

 

When I decided I wanted to have children, I was sure about one thing. I wanted to give them the gift of being bilingual. I had lived in Argentina with my Argentine husband for 6 years at the time we decided to start a family. We had the perfect opportunity to teach our children both languages!

 

I read books about raising bilingual kids, I read articles online, I did research. I felt like I was prepared! I wanted to take a very natural approach to it, no correcting, no teaching them English, just speaking to them like any mother speaks to her children. I named things, explained things, we read books, we colored and did everyday things together, and naturally we spoke as we did these things. And eventually when they spoke their first words, they were speaking both languages!

 

 

One thing I was not prepared for was the differences in learning styles. My daughter neatly separated both languages in her head and never mixed them. Instead of "code-switching"  as they call it, she knew who spoke in Spanish, who in English and would not mix the languages. It was very orderly and mathematical. 

 

My son on the other hand was completely different! He had a more relaxed approach, he was a big code switcher! He would talk a fluent mix of both languages and it was everyone else's challenge to understand him! In whatever language he knew the word, that's the way he said it. Often one sentence would be a mix of both languages. 

 

It is a remarkable experience to see how differently each of my children approached learning. Neither way is better, it just reaffirmed my strong belief that with a natural approach, trusting our children's innate ability to learn, everyone can arrive at the same result. Being bilingual.

 

Maybe you are thinking, oh, but that's so much easier, they were immersed in both languages all day. True. But it is no guarantee! I have heard of many children with bilingual parents that do not speak two languages. And the opposite is also true, monolingual parents with bilingual kids. 

 

Children need to be engaged with a language to learn it, and there are many ways for monolingual parents to do that without packing it all up and moving to Costa Rica for a year (although that sounds amazing!) And while my children did have that advantage of growing up in a bilingual household, you should be encouraged, because each little seed of bilingualism that you plant today, your child will reap in the future.

 

It is a gift that you will give your child for a lifetime.

 

By, Julia Steffen

WRITTEN BY

Julia Steffen

Hi! I’m Julia. I am fascinated and passionate about anything that has to do with languages, especially Spanish! I have loved the process of learning Spanish and all the experiences that it has brought to my life, especially raising bilingual children! My desire in this blog is to share my experience and knowledge about learning Spanish as a second language with you. I hope to inspire families to plant the seeds of bilingualism in their children, and over time see those seeds grow!