We live in a world that values fast results, the quicker the better. What about real results? And what exactly are the results we are searching for? What if we valued the journey as much as we do the destination?
Maybe sometimes we don't get to the end result because we burn out along the way from the pressure we put on ourselves (and our children) to produce fast results, over real results.
The journey and the experience of learning a second language are just as important as the so-called “end result”. I have to break some news to you; nobody ever finishes learning a language, not even in our mother tongue! We are always learning! How often do you hear a new word and have to look it up, or come across something unfamiliar in an article and don't fully understand the meaning? A language is a living thing that is constantly changing; with new expressions, idioms, phrases, and words. According to the Dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy, or RAE, the Spanish language has more than 93,000 words! And in 2021 almost 4000 new words were added. Our world is changing, becoming more developed, new technology is created, scientific discoveries are made and socially we live in a more complex, globalized world than humans have for thousands of years. So it's natural that along with those changes, our means of expressing ourselves also changes. So let's stop thinking about learning a language as something with a beginning and an end.
Learning Spanish as a second language should not be a race, it's not about becoming fluent as quickly as possible. It's about connecting with people, learning to appreciate new cultures and different ways of thinking. It's about acceptance and respect. It builds character in young children and empathy at such a crucial time in their development. These are the things that should be considered when we are thinking about teaching our children a second language.
The question is not, how long will it take?
The question is: apart from the benefits of becoming bilingual, what knowledge and emotional qualities will this process of learning a second language help develop in my child?
Of course we want to see results! We work hard to pay for classes, bilingual books and apps for our kids! We must be patient, consistent and treat it as a game! If we approach teaching our children a second language as an experience and don't obsess over fluency, we won't frustrate our children. We should teach our children a second language with the same amount of patience and humor as we do their first language. Remember how cute it was when your child was first learning how to speak and mixed up and mispronounced words? If you are like our family, maybe even some of those words stuck in your family vocabulary!
Learning a second language should be the exact same process! It should be fun, carefree, enjoyable and satisfying! Take it one day at a time, celebrate learning one new word! Don't worry if your child says it perfectly or not! Remember, it's not about perfection. Children try out new words, sounds and language structures, that is a completely normal part of the process.
Let's start celebrating the process of learning instead of obsessing over quick results! Our children will thank us for it!