I am personally a firm believer that learning as many languages as possible is fantastic and it also opens so many doors. Learning different languages has always been something that was encouraged in my home while growing up. Both my parents are from Chile, while my brother and I were born and raised in Canada. We spoke Spanish at home, had French class in school all the way through to high school, and spoke English everywhere else. It was a no brainer that I would do the same for my children when that day came.
Well, that day has come and it’s tough. So this is what I do and plan to do to help myself out. Mind you, my kids are only 2.5 and 15 months old, which gives me a little time… but not a lot.
Spanish is especially important to me because I still have a lot of family in Chile, and I would like for them to be able to communicate with them when we visit. At home, I do my best to only speak to my children in Spanish. Even though Spanish was technically the first language I learned, I am stronger in English and will sometimes catch myself speaking to them in English, but will repeat it in Spanish as often as possible.
Being a stay-at-home mom and working from home, I had to find other ways to expose them and also reinforce Spanish. The conversations I had with them were simple and important, but not often enough. After re-thinking screen time and looking at it from a different perspective that would help both me and my children, I decided to go for it. I found some educational programs on Netflix (like Bob the Train, Little Baby Bum, Stick with Mick, and Word Party) and played them in Spanish by switching the language setting.
I have also asked family members and anyone I know who speaks Spanish to only speak to them in Spanish. My son doesn’t say much but he understands. My daughter can express herself verbally more and may respond in English, but she understands.
There are also books that are bilingual where the stories come in two languages. Most times, I pick Spanish and English but have also purchased English and French. I really enjoy the bilingual books because this means that we don’t have to get two of the same book and most importantly, my husband and I can read them the same stories. AND… This also helps my husband pick up more Spanish. It’s cute to hear him read some of the stories to them in Spanish after having just read the story in English. I can thank my daughter for that.
Since I’m Canadian and have a B.A. in French, French is naturally another language that is important to me for them to learn. I am not fluent but do understand most of it, and I can also read it. When the kids are watching a show on Netflix or Youtube, I will change the language to French so their ears will get used to hearing it and will learn to understand it. Some shows are interactive where the kids will repeat what they hear.
When I visit my parents, who still live in Canada, I also visit my girlfriends that were in the same French program as I was in University. Their French is so much better than mine, especially since they went on to become French teachers. Any time we go to visit them, I ask them to speak to my kiddos in French. Basically, any close friend of mine who knows another language, I ask them to speak to them in that language. I just feel that exposing them to the different sounds that different languages make, it’ll help them more. I plan to also increase the bilingual English-French books we have so I can read to them in French more often.
This is a language I would like for them to pick up because it is another major language in the world of business. I am currently not doing anything to expose them to Mandarin but plan on getting a private tutor to teach them. I also plan to play the shows they are familiar with in Mandarin. Even though I don’t know any Mandarin, I will do my best to provide them with the tools to help them learn it.
The world is getting smaller and we are more integrated and connected than ever before. It’s very easy to be offered a job or have some business opportunity (short-term or long-term) in another country. I feel that if I can help my children learn two to three different languages, then they’ll be set. Any other language on top of that is a bonus!