Updated: Aug 14, 2022
"If I'm not a native Spanish speaker, will I confuse my child since I make mistakes? Will it be harmful to their language learning?"
You may make mistakes and even pass them on, but more importantly by engaging in the language, you're teaching your child is that being bilingual is something you value as a family and that it's important and that it matters.
Dr. Barbara Zurer Pearson, author of Raising a Bilingual Child, points out that the most important factor for language-learning is quantity of input (how much your child hears the language). Positive association and importance of the language in your community are close behind.
If your goal is to raise a bilingual child, it's essential that you make a mindful effort to incorporate Spanish into your daily life in front of your child (mistakes and all). Seize the opportunity!
By watching you, your child will learn that it's OK to face challenges and get out of your comfort zone. And that is an invaluable lesson for your child, whether it is for learning a second language or learning any new skill.
What about the mistakes I make in Spanish?
Surround yourself with resources
When you make a mistake, or if you're unsure of a word, look it up as soon as you can and integrate the correction for next time. We recommend having "Word Reference" app on your phone. Ask your Spanish-speaking friends to correct you. Or simply google "(fill in the blank) en español" i.e. "Milk en español", "take a bath en español", and so on.
Read, read, read
By reading to your child, you're improving your own ability to speak Spanish fluently, and you're modeling correct grammar and vocabulary. You may pronounce things differently, but that's OK. Reading is one of the most beneficial activities you can do with your child developmentally, emotionally, and linguistically.
Expand your language community
If children hear a language in settings outside of home, they start to attribute even more importance to it. Find other families to have Spanish playdates with (if you're in Austin, try join ATX Spanish with Your Kids Facebook page).
Seek out Spanish immersion opportunities for you and your child to do together (you're already doing that if you're in bilingual music classes with Mi Casa Es Tu Casa®!). Our classes are set up for parents to model engagement with movement, language, music and sign language, and you can join no matter where you live!
Set everything to Spanish
Listen to music in Spanish at home, sing to your child in Spanish, when you watch movies and shows, watch them in Spanish. With technology these days, it's so easy to create a Spanish bubble!
Incorporate Spanish little by little at a rate that is comfortable for you. You'll find that your own Spanish will improve the more you speak it with your child. And remember, you don't have to be the only source of Spanish. That will ease the pressure you may feel if your Spanish isn't perfect.
The biggest mistake you could make would be to shut the door on Spanish or the possibility of a bilingual journey with your child before even starting. Be brave!
For even more resources, see our favorite books on parenting, mindful living, bilingualism, and education in this blog post.
This post is part of a Q&A series we're doing on parenting. Email us with your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org! or comment below!