Category: Bilingualism

Language Immersion Piece by Piece

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We’ve all heard of the proven benefits of speaking a second language,  and that high proficiency can be acquired in an immersion setting but that’s not always possible.  Especially when the second language is the minority one.
As a parent raising a bilingual child what to do?

Puzzle image via Commons Wikimedia

Immersion environment at home

I had the wonderful fortune of finding Spanish speaking friends for my son.   Their first very first Spanish playdate was a success, and I eventually ended up babysitting two of the girls. Babysitting once a week turned to five days a week.  During this time my son was speaking to them only in Spanish.  I even had them watching Spanish cartoons, and listening to Spanish songs.

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Online Resources for Raising Bilingual Kids

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When I started our bilingual journey I was just a momma with a desire to have her son learn Spanish! I didn’t know where to start, and truth be told I was very lost.

How, when, where and what to start our bilingual journey? I was clueless! I had so many questions! 
When raising a bilingual kid you need to maximize all of the opportunities available. If you’re lucky you can find a full-immersion program. However, that was not our case.  I would have been thrilled, and ecstatic if I had known about   Language4kidz.com. Created by Graciela Castellanos it provides early language learning programs for babies (yes babies!) through elementary age children. Seriously, do you know  how easy it would have been for me to have used Language4kidz 5 years ago? 

Disclosure: I received a electronic copies of children’s book, and an audio for the purpose of reviewing it.  I did not receive monetary compensation for this review. All opinions are my own.

As a momma raising a bilingual and biliterate child I look forward to the opportunity to review materials that will enhance my child’s bilingual journey.   I was provided with a sample of  an audio song: “Un millon de amigos” and electronic copies of their children’s book by Graciela Castellanos, Author, and Founder of Languages4kidz, Inc. 
  • Pets All Over the Place Illustrated by Cristina Gil Segovia 
  • Osi Hace Nuevos Amigos Illustrated by Alejandra Viacava 
  • ¿Qué te Gusta? Illustrated by Sachiko Sawada 
  • Una Fiesta de Cumpleaños Illustrated by Kasandra 
What I love about Language4kidz is that it’s one your one-stop resource for raising your children to learn Spanish or learn English!   Here you’ll find music, children’s book, and enrichment activities. You know what really excites me about this program is that you don’t have to be a teacher to use the program!  The lesson plans are flexible, and easy to use with activities to follow-through. 
In my journey raising a bilingual child I have seen first hand how music has positively impacted my child’s language learning.  Language4kidz has samples of  songs, and nursery rhymes  that you can listen to, and are part of the program. 
For more information on Language4kidz visit their website, Facebook, or Pinterest page.

To read more about our bilingual journey click here, or check out our Pinterest board.

Follow Frances @ DTWTMSE’s board Bilingual Education & Resources for Teaching Kids Spanish on Pinterest.

Categories: Bilingualism

My Bilingual Child’s Secret Language: Spanish

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Never in my wildest dreams I could imagine writing about my son’s “secret” language: Spanish!  When we started our bilingual journey I had my heart and soul in providing for him a Spanish immersion experience.  It was an unfathomable feat considering we were living in an exclusive monolingual environment where opportunities to nurture a bilingual child were literally impossible.
Nevertheless, my mama heart was set on making our child bilingual against all odds…
Picture on left my 7 yr. old. Picture on right when he was 4 yrs. old and we started our bilingual journey.

…and guess what?  It happened! It truly happened! 

I have a bilingual and biliterate child who communicates with me in Spanish, who sleeps talk in Spanish, and who whispers in my ear in Spanish that he’d like an extra piece of candy so that if his Daddy overhears him he won’t know what he’s saying. Ha!  It tickles me when he approaches me in Spanish as if this were our secret language.  Though I have a feeling that Daddy has picked up on some Spanish since Spanish is grilled 24/7 in our home.
My child has been using Spanish as a secret language when it suits him. As you can read from Rita’s Multilingual Parenting post on 7 ways to motivate your child to speak the minority language he has created a need to communicate in Spanish.  This is his motivator.

Now on the flip side when your child is not motivated to speak the minority language follow The Piri-Piri Lexicon’s awesome tip talk, talk, talk because it works!  Ute from Expat Since Birth shares tips for expats about how to encourage your child to learn the local language, and stresses on the importance of reading for multilingual children.   Last but not least, Rita advises not to get discouraged, and take a deep breath when your child refuses to talk you in the minority language.

Reflecting on our journey, I look at my 7 yr. old and remember when he was a preschooler who barely turned 4 yrs. old claiming he knew Spanish.  Seriously, singing Dora’s song of the numbers does not constitute to being bilingual. Ha!   At the time that was so far from the truth! Now, I know without any doubt or hesitation when he says, “Mommy, I know Spanish!” He really does. Especially since it’s also his secret language.

Does your child have a secret language? What is your child’s motivator?  As a parent what’s your motivator?

Read more our bilingual journey with Spanish activities here, and follow my Pinterest Board: 


Follow Frances @ DTWTMSE’s board Bilingual Education & Resources for Teaching Kids Spanish on Pinterest.

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Cultivating our Child’s Heritage Language through Long-Distance Relationships with our Familia

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When I moved to the USA, one of the things that my mother and I agreed upon was that we would always visit each other. One year she’d visit, and the following year I’d visit Puerto Rico. Well the I, turned into an us. Married and with a child, now the visits every other year were not only a request but a must. It was important to me that our child know his heritage language, culture, and know his familia who lived far away.
Little one surrounded by his aunties, uncles, cousins, and us in Puerto Rico. 

Communication using technology has been very helpful for us. We actually don’t Skype due to our busy schedules; but we often send short videos, and voice messages through smartphone apps.  It’s a way to keep our child connected to his familia.  
Sending and receiving care packages, and good old regular snail mail in either English or Spanish has been a constant in our home.  I have been blessed with an amazing long-distance family support system when it comes to raising a bilingual child.  Often the care packages come with awesome materials and/or books in Spanish!  

Throughout the years, I’ve had the family visit us, and we’d visit them in Puerto Rico. Although, our child sees his extended family a few times a year; he has a relationship with his Abuela, Tías, Tíos, and his primos. The best part is that he communicates with them in our heritage language Spanish!
Ten years after I moved from Puerto Rico, I realize that long-distance has not hindered in any way our son’s love for his heritage language, culture, and extended familia.  In part thanks to our awesome family!!! You guys rock!!! We love you! 
For more on our bilingual journey click here
This post has been created for inclusion in this Multilingual Carnival hosted by Rita from Multilingual Parenting
Categories: Bilingualism

Music and My Bilingual Child

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Music has played a big part in my child’s bilingual language learning.   I used music to make his language learning exciting, and ¡divertido!   When we started our bilingual journey, his exposure to the target language was minimal. Besides reading to him in the minority language, and perusing YouTube for cartoons in Spanish, music was and continues to be the best resource to continue to teach my child Spanish.

Music has been key element in his language learning because it was fun! Seriously! My child would sing-along out loud to words that he didn’t even understand. Singing along he was acquiring new vocabulary, and at the same time it was facilitating his acquisition of a second language. 
Music was boosting my child’s memory, too! It was so easy it was for him to remember rhyming words with music, and a predictive pattern.    
With that being said, I was thrilled when I was given the opportunity to review Mister G’s Los Animales new CD!    Mister G is a 2014 Latin GRAMMY nominated artist with six albums of original, award-winning music for kids and families. No wonder! He’s a musical language ambassador for children! 
Los Animales CD has been a big hit in our home, and car!  My child’s and his friends’ reaction when they first heard the CD was priceless!  My son, and two of his friends were in the backseat of my car talking non-stop! (Imagine 5-7 yrs. old rambling) The minute the first song “Los Animales” started playing on my CD player in the car I had their undivided attention! With the intro, “¡Hola chicos! They started bopping their heads, laughing, and moving to the music.   
Mister G’s songs are catchy, fun, and bilingual! Besides the songs, there are also three short conversations between Mister G and his friends. These conversations sparked the children to answer, and to speak in both English and Spanish. 

What I love about this CD is that any child learning either language can benefit from it! Whether the child is leaning English or learning Spanish they can still understand, sing, rock, and dance to the music.

Now for the fun part!  Win one of two CD’s of Mister G’s Los Animales!  Giveaway open to US residents 18 and older. Ends August 2nd at 11:59pm. Enter the giveaway by following the instructions on the Rafflecopter below:

Disclosure: I was provided with a copy of the CD of Mister G’s Los Animales so that I could provide a review. However all opinions are my own. 

Categories: Bilingualism

It Takes a Village to Raise a Bilingual Child

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When I talk about my child’s bilingual journey I often express how I was the “only one” who spoke the heritage language, how we were immersed completely in the community language; and how challenging it was, but in retrospect I realize I didn’t raise a bilingual child by myself… it took a village!
I could have not done this without rallying up the troops directly or indirectly. You may be asking, how do you rally up someone indirectly? Read along, and I’ll tell you how.
  • Online community – I often turned to a group of amazing mommas from all walks of life, who were also raising bilingual, and multilingual children for advice.  
  • Spanish playgroup – I was blessed to have met some friends with children who spoke the minority language, hence the Spanish playgroup was created!  
  • Extended family – although at a distance they were a great support system especially little one’s Abuela and Titi Gladys.  They often sent books, and materials in Spanish to aid him in his language journey. 
  • Immersion trip to our language heritage country – Being immersed and surrounded by the now community language (Spanish) worked wonders for our son. Listening to everyone from the flight attendant to our family members helped him in ways you can’t even imagine.  Even weeks after returning from our trip he started saying words in Spanish that he had heard. 
  • Non-bilingual friends – these are the troops that I rallied indirectly!  By creating a Spanish Summer Camp Language Program for my son’s (English only) preschool friends helped and boosted his language learning.  He was my li’l helper during the program, and he taught his non-bilingual friends Spanish.  This boosted his confidence by leaps and bounds. We also had bilingual playdates with non-bilingual friends for the same reason. 
I was never really alone in little one’s bilingual journey I had a village all along, and I have many people to thank for making this journey an amazing one! ¡Gracias! Thank you! 

This post was created for inclusion in this month’s “Raising Multilingual Children: Blogging Carnival” hosted by Marianna from Bilingual Avenue.

Do you have a village to help you in raising a bilingual/multilingual child? Please share!
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Encouraging in Your Child a Love for the Minority Language

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On the third year anniversary of our journey into Spanish immersion I find it fitting to share with you what language immersion strategies have worked for us, and how my child has a new-found love with the Spanish language. 


Photo via Common Creative: Marcus Koljonen, and Microsoft Word.  
In the beginning I was filled with high-expectations, and I was so nervous of the outcome because I didn’t start speaking to our son in Spanish since he was born; but when he turned 4 yrs. old. Seriously! I waited that long! 
However, today it’s a whole new chapter in our Spanish immersion journey. This is what a conversation between my now bilingual child is: 
This may sound like a simple and ordinary Spanish conversation, but it goes beyond the ordinary. If you’ve been following our bilingual journey you will understand. This is the child who only knew his numbers, and colors in Spanish because of Dora! 
I am taken aback by his natural ability to speak to me in Spanish using different phrases, and expressions. Natural in the sense that it wasn’t forced. I’m noticing now how his thoughts and feelings in Spanish flow naturally out of his lips. 
His native, and first language is English. However, his language of choice when communicating with me is Spanish; especially if he wants to share something with me, and doesn’t want his Daddy to know. Ha!Ha! 
Cultivating a love for his heritage language is finally paying off! When he hears a word in Spanish that he doesn’t understand he asks what does it mean. When he wants to say a joke he says it in Spanish. When he goes to bed he says his prayers in Spanish. When he tells me I love you he says it in Spanish “¡Te amo!”
Looking back at our journey into Spanish Immersion this is what worked for us: 
  1. If you’re using the OPOL method speak, speak to your child in your heritage language; which will most likely be the minority language. 
  2. Enroll your child in a language immersion program
  3. Have your child watch TV in the minority language. 
  4. Read to your child in the minority language, and if possible purchase books in the minority language. 
    • If buying books is expensive consider visiting your local library or, 
    • Asks friends, and relatives when gifting to gift a book in the minority language. I have tons of books in Spanish that way. 
  5. If possible, plan an immersion trip to a country where your child’s minority language is the community language.  Don’t forget to check out the local book stores for minority language children’s books. 
  6. Scout your child’s friends to organize a minority language play group or play date
  7. Create a minority language text-rich environment in your home. 
  8. Play music CD’s in the minority language over, and over. Trust me your child will pick-up on new words. Sing-along to the songs in the minority language. You can also play audio books to your child as well. 
  9. Play games such as Zingo, and/or language apps in the minority language. 
  10. If you as a parent are feeling ambitious, start a minority language summer program or book club. 
While I’ve shared what has worked for us.  Linguist, and mama Annabelle from The Piri-Piri Lexicon shares 40 tips for raising multilingual children! I kid you not, 40!  
Don’t ever hesitate in your ability to nurture in your child a love for his or her heritage language. Don’t ever think it’s too late, and most importantly don’t ever give up on your child. There will be times it will look like an impossible feat to accomplish, or that your child may not be really “getting it”, but he is, he really is! Just give it some time, and both you and your child will reap the benefits. 
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A Monolingual Parent Interview on Raising a Bilingual Child

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As a bilingual parent I’ve faced many challenges raising a bilingual child. Therefore, I can’t imagine how challenging it would be for a monolingual parent.

I’ve been asked by many monolingual parents if they can actually raise a bilingual child, and my answer is yes, of course!  When there’s a will, there’s a way!

Photo courtesy of Kami Fletcher

Today, I am so honored, and pleased to interview Kami Fletcher! A monolingual parent raising her two sons to be bilingual in both English, and Spanish!  

Editor’s Note:  Kami and I met virtually on-line. She happened to come across my blog while looking for information on immersion trips to Puerto Rico. The funny part is that I remembered she commented on my blog post, messaged me on Google+ and even found my personal Facebook page and sent me a message there. She sent me various messages before I even responded to her. She also wanted to talk by phone as well,  and in all honesty I thought she was a stalker! LOL (Yes, Kami I did think that of you!) I’m happy that you “stalked” me. We are now good friends, and our boys are pen-pals writing to each other in Español. 

Q:  Are you a bilingual parent? 
A:  Although, I took 2 years of Spanish in high school and 2 years of Spanish in college, I do not consider myself bilingual.

Q: Being that you’re not bilingual what motivated you to raise bilingual children? 
A:  We do not live in a monolingual world! And what motivates us the most is that we want out children to be exposed to other cultures BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY recognize the importance of other cultures. And the gateway to this is language! Language is so intimately intertwined with one’s beliefs and culture that to speak the langue is to appreciate and value the culture. Also, Spanish is one of the worlds languages! Besides English and Mandarin, most people speak Spanish! I wanted my children to understand other cultures than American/Western cultures. America is not the whole world. There is another world out there and the people that occupy those countries do not all speak English.

Q:  How old are you children?
A:   My sons are 7 and 9

Q: What age did they start learning Spanish?
A: My lifemate and I, always knew that our children would be fluent in Spanish. So when our oldest was 4 and had “mastered” English, we put him a wonderful program called Fun With Foreign Language and he SOARED! While in class, he started speaking in sentences when answering questions and expressing himself to the teacher!! He was in that program for a full academic year. He went for an hour on Saturdays from September unto April. Then we started our youngest in the program when he was 3 years old. He too, quickly caught on to speaking simple phrases.
Q: As a monolingual parent, what was your “go-to” resources to start this language journey?
A: Oh my goodness…our “go-to” is, hands-down, Spanish cartoons on VMe (Spanish channel network)!! everyday since our sons were 3 and 5 years old we make them watch a certain amount of cartoons in Spanish!! This way, they CONTINUOUSLY hear the language which is so important to them speaking it, understanding it and pronouncing it correctly. Because their father and I cannot do that. And we don’t want them sounding like us when we try and speak the language. (LOL)
Q: Keeping a child’s interest in any topic/subject is difficult. How do you engage your children?
A: We did not have that problem in the first 2-3 years because they just LOVED the language. Our children have an affinity for languages! But as they got older 6 and 7 (with my oldest), we knew we had to keep it fun AND challenging. They will get bored if it becomes too easy. We ran into that about a year ago, when they out grew the cartoons on VMe kids. Miraculously, my lifemate found an older-kids cartoon called “Chavo” that has re-energized them! They are learning new vocabulary and are greatly entertained.
Q: What challenges have you faced?
A: Making sure that practice daily!! As monolingual parent, I, just like them, had to be committed to this learning. And it was important that they knew how to READ, WRITE AND SPEAK. We wanted our sons fluent! So the daily practice and making sure they are still progressing in the language and RETAINING what they have learned. This is the biggest challenge!
Q:  What advice could you give to a monolingual parent contemplating to raise bilingual children? 
A:  You must be dedicated to this! You must find ways to immerse your children in Spanish or the chosen language daily! It is a lifestyle change.
Q:  Can you please share with us about the Spanish club that you have started?  
A:  Sure! My sons are voracious readers!! And they both love to read books in Spanish, so I thought what better way to immerse them in Spanish than by starting a book club. This way, they can read books and build vocabulary. I knew that I could not lead it and so reached out to people who could help. I immediately contacted the Southeast Anchor branch of the Enoch Pratt library and spoke with the bilingual specialist to first see if any such club existed. They did not have one but she said that they would support me if I started one. I reached out to the Latino community including a charter school and received help from their community coordinator (Dr. Elizabeth Obara). So the 3 of us (the community coordinator, the library’s bilingual specialist and myself) all set down. I had the vision, goals, and objectives and they helped me execute. This would be a library program and so the Club Leader must be a volunteer. It was very important to me that the person be a native Spanish speaker because I did not just want someone fluent in the language but someone from the culture and could relay that to the kids. I started this process in October 2013 and February 8, 2014 was our inaugural club meeting!
It is a Spanish book club where elementary-aged children read and discuss books in Spanish that are not just translated books in Spanish BUT represent Latino heritage and culture. Which is why the mission of the group is to reinforce Spanish literacy and phonics as well as promote Latino heritage and culture via the books read.

Every club session, Catalina (our awesome club leader who is an experienced teacher and native speaker) welcomes children and parents at the door and the parents most certainly stay and participate. Several books and poems are read as well as songs sang. A discussion of the plot, the setting, the characters ensure. Each class is held on Saturday morning and is 1 hour and 30 minutes and at the end everyone is offered a healthy snack which is usually fruit and water.
Photo courtesy of Kami Fletcher

Editor’s Note:  Kami, thank you so much for allowing me you to interview you. Your determination is truly inspirational, and your beautiful family, and you are proof that monolingual parents can raise bilingual children.  Your perseverance, and commitment has motivated me to start a Spanish book club in our local library! ¡Gracias amiga!

About Kami Fletcher   



For more ideas on raising bilingual children check out my Pinterest board:

This post was created for inclusion in the Raising Multilingual Children Blogging Carnival hosted by Maria Babin of  Trilingual Mama

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