Monolingual Mommy/Bilingual Baby

 If I could change something about my childhood, it would be that I did not grow up learning Spanish. My grandparents all spoke Spanish.  My father grew up speaking Spanish and is fluent in both English and Spanish. My parents made a conscious decision not to raise me and my siblings speaking Spanish. I believe this was because they wanted us to have a good command of the English language, and my father remembered the stigma that was associated with speaking Spanish in his youth.  I understand their decision and I appreciate them for wanting my  siblings and I to become strong in our English reading and writing skills.

 Still, I wish I was fully bilingual. Not that I haven’t tried to become fluent in Spanish. I took 3 years of high school Spanish, one semester in college, and post-college I attended 2 more years of Spanish evening classes at a community college. In law school I spent a summer living with a Mexican family, studying law in Mexico, and taking Spanish language classes. It’s my great frustration that despite all my efforts I can still only say that I am “conversant” in Spanish.

So, last year when Juan and I learned of a new program launching in our local public school district that would fully immerse the kindergarten through 5th grade students in Spanish, I was very interested. Diego was about to start kindergarten and on track to enroll in the same private catholic school that Nico and Erica attend. Juan and I had to make a decision to send him there or invest in our public school and put faith in this new program. We were on the fence because, honestly, our public school system does not have the best academic reputation, and we liked the small, family community and spiritual development our other kids were getting at their school

The day that we had to make the decision to send our seat deposit in for Diego at the private school, I was in San Francisco, attending a conference about the transitioning Mexican legal system. Prominent Mexican judges and attorneys were lecturing about their legal system, in Spanish. I was only one of a few attorneys who needed the aid of simultaneous translation.  That moment helped me to make the decision that Diego would attend the public school Spanish immersion program.

I have not regretted that decision. He is becoming bilingual and bi-literate. Soon he and Juan, who is a fluent Spanish speaker, will be able to talk about me without me fully comprehending what they are saying. Tonight, I am attending a special screening of the movie “Speaking in Tongues” at Diego’s school.  This film shows the benefits of dual language programs. It’s such an exciting concept.  I encourage anyone who is in the Pasadena area to attend this event.  And if you’re into “Twittering” please give this post a “tweet.”

6 thoughts on “Monolingual Mommy/Bilingual Baby

  1. Hi! Congrats on your decision to send your son to your local dual language program! You’re on the money! The doors it’ll open up for him are endless! I am living proof of that.

    Speaking in Tongues is incredibly well done and I think it serves as real proof of what multilingualism can do to and for our children. I hope you enjoy watching it and I hope it serves to convince those who still hang on to the old myths about speaking more than one language.

    Would love to hear more about your son’s experiences in school becoming bilingual and biliterate!

  2. Regina says:

    Hi Diana. I too have a family fully conversant in Spanish, including my Kids! And they DO talk about me in Spanish! The nerve!

    My father has a Masters in Language and actually was the host of the first Spanish children’s show on T.V. (sorta like Sesame Street, but not). He has a truly amazing knowledge of the many Spanish dialects.

    But, alas, my parents too made the decision not to teach us Spanish, for the same reasons as your parents. I wish I could pick it up, but I just don’t have the ear for it.

    Thanks for the story.

  3. Tracy López says:

    He’s adorable! I think you definitely made the right decision. I wish bilingual schools were an option for us. What a gift you’re giving your children!

  4. I found your post so interesting. I come from the other side of the “tortilla”: grew up in a Latin American country and attended a full immersion English school and believe me it worked, it’s wonderful what you are doing for your kids. Congrats! And believe me full immersion WORKS, I moved to the US only 4 years ago and have almost no accent, everyone thinks I was born here. Now I am struggling to teach my kids Spanish, we don’t have any bilingual programs here so it’s all up to me and competing with the rest of their world that speaks only English has been hard. :) I am very involved in promoting the support of native language and culture in the classroom and the home and we are putting together some educational/informational campaigns in our area for both educators and parents because I see every day parents that speak Spanish and kids that speak only English and how communication starts breaking up in families and identities get lost. Truly great that you are teaching your kids about their heritage, culture and giving them the gift of a second language! FELICIDADES!

    • lifewellblended says:

      Hi Paula. Thank you so much for stopping by. By the way, I love the name of your blog! I am so happy to hear your story about immersion. I do see it working in my son. Yesterday, I (tried) to use the future tense in Spanish and he corrected me! I love that not only is he learning a second language but he has learned to become a confident speaker also. Good luck promoting native culture and language in the classroom. Keep up your efforts. The world is a much smaller place these days, and our kids need to develop an awareness and appreciation for others whose culture and language differ from ours.

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