My husband and I had childhoods that were almost the exact opposite of each other. I was born abroad and raised in the US, while he was born in NY and raised in Colombia. Yet we had one big thing in common, we were both raised bilingual.
For him, a combination of movies and trips back to NY every summer kept both languages alive. While I was raised by my abuela and tía who didn’t speak English. And also I’m from Queens, NY where Spanglish reigns.
Patrick and I were always on the same page as far as raising our children to be bilingual. We started exposing Santi to language very early on. Now, at two years old he can count to 10 in Spanish and his ABC’s in English. He can tell you about his shoes and animals in both languages too!
Here’s some ways that we started dual language learning at home:
Books are one of my favorite ways to learn a language! It’s screen free and a great bonding activity!
Call’s Books was created by a mom who wanted to teach her daughter her native language of French. What she created is a celebration of cultures from around the world.
These books also have sound, where you can sing along to your children Greek, Brazilian, Chinese and Spanish nursery rhymes.
Celebrating our heritage, Lil Libros books are completely bilingual. Not only are they written in both English and Spanish, but they celebrate aspects of our culture like El Chavo, La Llorona, Selena, and cities like Oaxaca, San Salvador, and San Juan! When they came out with the Bogotá and Havana books I was first in line to order, to celebrte where our families are from!
Let’s face it as much as we want to avoid screen time, there’s moments when we need it. Here are our top pics when we want to dance, sing, and learn together:
Cánticos is one of our favorite bilingual shows to watch! With beloved songs and nursery rhymes sung in English, and then “otra vez!” en Español!
Pocoyo – which literally translates to “little me” from Spanish is the most adorable show ever! Pocoyo along with his friends Eli and Pato are always off on an adventure. We watch in both English and Spanish, and this is one show Santi has loved since he was about 8 months old – and still does to this day!
No matter what language you want your child learning, Sesame Street is a great language teacher! You get the foundations of whatever language you’re watching. I always recommend this for anyone looking to introduce a new language to your little one
La Granja de Zenon
La Granja de Zenon (Zenon’s Farm) Is full of songs that are sure to be on repeat. This is another top show in our house, with Spanish songs like “La Vaca Lola,” “La Gallina Turuleca,” and more. I recently found out there is an English version too, but it’s just not the same.
Language Learning at Home
There are a few ways that you can enforce multiple language learning at home.
If you have a two parent household (or grandparents in the home) mom can speak English and dad can speak Spanish, for example.
Another technique is half days of language learning. A good friend of mine was teaching her daughter three languages. She would do German in the morning, Polish in the afternoon, and English when dad got home at night.
We speak to Santi in Spanish, yet he always heard us speaking English. One set of grandparents also exclusively speak to him in English. Our pediatrician at the time mentioned that kids growing up in the US will learn English once in school and exposed to kids, so focusing on one language at home is fine and will strengthen their understanding in that language.
Being fluent in multiple languages will set your kids up for success in an increasingly globalized world. Michigan State University says “Between the ages of 0-3, the brains of young children are uniquely suited to learn a second language as the brain is in its most flexible stage. In fact, bilingually exposed infants excelled in detecting a switch in language as early as 6 months old.”
If one thing is for certain, it’s that kids are like sponges. Start early and reinforce language learning through music, shows, books, and the way you speak in front of your children matters!
Point is, there is no direct line to language learning other than consistency! Good luck on this journey, and join us as we continue to navigate language and cultural learning!