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6 Commonly Made Mistakes When Trying to Raise a Bilingual Child

Teaching a language that is different from what everybody else speaks is not easy and most of us tent to make the same innocent mistakes that end up making the difference on whether your child will acquire this language or not regardless of how hard you try. Take a look below and see if you identify with any of these.

1. Not using your targeted language in front of other people.

I hear it all the time: “I switch to English when we are at the park or in front of other people because I don’t want to be rude to them”. I hear you. I felt the same way too when my child was a baby. The truth is, other people out there admire those who can speak another language and have the bravery of doing it publicly.

If you do switch, it won’t be long until your child’s brain identifies that English is a more practical and common language and will stop developing specific abilities to speak your targeted language fluently. Moreover, he or she might end up being ashamed of knowing that language outside of your home. It’s up to you to set the example.

2. Avoiding using your targeted language because you are not “perfect” at it.

Ah, perfection…! A shadow some of us need to fight daily. No one’s Spanish is perfect. Not even native Spanish speakers. We all make mistakes and that is a beautiful thing because it allows us to grow. You don’t need to have a PhD to have ‘permission’ to teach your child another language. In fact, showing your child that you don’t know a word and need to search for it, or that you made a mistake and are self-correcting is a GOLDEN example for them! Not only for language acquisition but for life itself!

I understand it can be challenging for your brain (exhausting on tough days) but you don’t need to be military strict. Use as much words in your targeted language as you can remember. Maybe you always say agua instead of weater, and frio instead of cold. You can start small and incorporate more vocabulary once you are comfortable with that you have. There are great apps to help you out. Check out ​MamaLingua for example.

3. Allowing your child to respond in English.

Children, as all human beings, will go for what is easiest and most practical. Soon after your child starts socializing, he or she will realize English is more practical and their little brains will start specializing in English and leaving Spanish for posterity. You can identify this process has started when all of a sudden, your child starts getting back to you in English instead of in the language you are speaking to him/her. What to do? Offer them the words they need in Spanish (or in whichever your targeted language is). It will look like this:

  • Kid: mommy I want water

  • Mom: dime ‘mami quiero agua’

  • Kid: mami quiero agua

  • Mom gives water to the child.

I know what you are thinking... “yeah sure, it will be THAT easy..” Well guess what, yes and no. It will not be easy the first 3 days. If you really commit to it, after the 4th day it will become natural, and expected and after a while, your child will start self-correcting and talking to you directly in your targeted language to avoid the double work. Prsistance is the key!

4. Using TV or other media/entertainment in English instead of your targeted language.

Life in the US occurs in English. All TV shows, books, interactions at the grocery store, everything is in English. Crowd your home with your targeted language. For bed time stories, chose books in your targeted language (here is an easy-to-read list for you). If there is a book you or your child loves and you can’t find it in Spanish, tell the story in Spanish, who cares? If you allow your child to watch TV, change the language to Spanish (option available on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime) or select the Spanish children’s channel instead of the regular PBS Kids in English.

5. Leaving it up to them and other people to teach them

Monkey see, monkey do. I understand. You do not know any Spanish and have no tools to teach your child whatsoever other than enrolling him/her in a Spanish program hoping it works. Well, first of all, thanks for being brave enough as to offer your child education in a language you might not understand in the future. But, guess what?... You still need to get involved!

Even if you do not know a word, the fact that your child sees you trying to learn at least 1 word a week in this language they are now supposed to learn all by themselves, makes all the difference in the world. After all, why would they invest their efforts on something you don’t seem to value for yourself? Offer them the great example of being an autodidact. No need for crazy unachievable goals, try to learn 1 word a week with your child. I promise it will make a big difference on the long run, even if they end up learning a much higher level that you can understand, they will invest their efforts and value it because you did!

6. Not signing up for a paretn-child Spanish class through Mi Casa Es Tu Casa classes in Austin!

It takes a tribe! To be a parent and to do all things parent-related, it takes support and community. MamaCanta classes from Mi Casa Es Tu Casa, are designed to help you out in this journey. With age appropriate activities the class will show your child Spanish is fun and means connection, laughter and a special time just for the two of you. They will also experience Spanish as a social activity qhich wilk increade their likelihood to acquire this wondeful language.

From birth to 5 years of age, for families who already know and use Spanish, MamaCanta will reinforce the value of the language outside of home in a social setting that is fun and entertaining, and for families who don’t speak Spanish, it is a marvelous point of entry to the journey of learning a new language with your child without being overwhelming. Learn more at Mi Casa Es Tu Casa or try a free class today.

Share your thoughts and tips below!

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