Being Bilingual: Easier Said Than Done
Being bilingual was something that came so naturally to me. I grew up around my grandparents who only spoke Spanish. I always spoke English to my parents because they both understood the language, but my father has always replied in Spanish. With everyone else in the family, it’s always been Spanglish; a mixture of English and Spanish.
I knew I wanted our children to be bilingual and my husband agreed. He understood the importance of having bilingual children in this world. I figured teaching my kids Spanish would come easy. I mean, I speak Spanish, my relatives speak Spanish, piece of cake, No? Not the case! Unfortunately this has been a struggle for me. I went from having a Spanish speaking sitter, to trying OPOL, to only some Spanish words, and finally no Spanish.
Fortunately, my husband and I had also decided to get my aunt to babysit my son while we both went back to work. My aunt only spoke Spanish and it was more of a communication issue between my husband and her then with her and the baby. By the time my son was 9 months he understood Spanish. I however lost my job and no longer needed my aunt to babysit. I still like to think my son’s first language is Spanish. I do regret not continuing to speak Spanish but I was battling some sort of post-partum depression and I was just worried about caring for him and spending time with him.
OPOL and Immersion
One Parent One Language (OPOL) is something I was fascinated with when I first read about it on SpanglishBaby.com. OPOL is exactly what it sounds like, each parent speaks only one of the dual languages. My son was just 18 months at that time and in my case I was the one speaking Spanish to Little Man. It went ok for maybe a month, when I found myself speaking more Spanglish and then reverting back to English.
I tried different things after that; watching shows, singing songs, doing activities such as flash card games, but still he only picked up a word or two. The progress was better than nothing but I didn’t stick with it and I blame myself because I could have done more. Now I find it even more difficult, since I am the only one around my children who speaks Spanish. Though I must credit my husband, for a short time he was the one speaking more Spanish than I was. He only knows a handful of words, but at least he was trying. Now, if they ever hear me speak Spanish, it’s either when I’m on the phone or when we are video chatting.
On a recent trip to Mexico the kids were exposed to nothing but Spanish. They learned a handful of words within the 2 months we visited. I guess the environment and exposure do have a lot to do with progress. I am now more determined than ever to try and find or create a group of Spanish speaking families that my children can spend time with. I know the commitment has to be there and also the exposure. I need my children to know both languages because they, are in fact, half Mexican. In the end, I only wish it was easier said than done.
Ruby is many things, but foremost a wife and mother to her 2 little ones. She and her husband are trying to raise bilingual/bicultural little beings. She’s originally from Orange County, California, but recently moved across country after her husband completed his duty with the US Navy. They now live in New Jersey, where her husband is originally from. Ruby enjoys time with her family, visiting new places and people, all things crafty and of course, meeting other bicultural parents! Find her on her blog, Growing Up Blackxican.