If you are one of those parents or would-be parents who really wants your child to be able to speak and read well in English and in Spanish, you are not alone. Apart from the benefits of learning two cultures and being able to converse with Abuela or other family members, there is no doubt that being bilingual gives you an edge.
There are many studies showing that being bilingual positively affects the brain. In essence, it makes you smarter. Aside from the obvious social and cultural benefits, cognitive skills are improved as the brain adapts to switching between both languages. In addition, a recent study shows bilingual students have better college outcomes and job prospects.
For parents wanting their children to be bilingual, there are many online resources. Among them are blogs by bilingual parents, many of them Latina moms, who have made it their mission to help others teach their children a second or third language.
Monica Olivera, based in Eastern North Carolina, blogs at MommyMaestra
Olivera started blogging in 2007 with a site about being a Latina mom. She wanted to reconnect with her Latino culture, and pass on her legacy to her children, so she established a blog - the Latin Baby Book Club - that reviewed Latino children's literature, including bilingual books. Three years later she launched another blog, MommyMaestra, when she began homeschooling her daughter. This is now a resource for parents and educators where Olivera shares tools and materials to help them help their children academically. Her most popular posts are those that share products that promote bilingualism.
On MommyMaestra, readers will find loads of products and opportunities that help them get involved in their children's education. Parents can learn about scholarship opportunities or find reviews of the Spanish programs available for home or school instruction.
Olivera´s words of encouragement for other parents seeking to make their children bilingual: “Never give up. There are so many different ways to raise bilingual kids. And no, they are never too old to learn another language. New products are coming out all the time, it's simply a matter of finding the right one to help your kids learn.”
Silvia Martinez, based in California Central Coast, blogs at MamaLatinaTips
Martinez launched her bilingual blog in 2009 with the goal of sharing experiences with other bicultural moms.
MamaLatinaTips.com provides tips and information about bilingualism, biculturalism and how we pass down traditions to children through food, music, stories, travel, and celebrations. Martinez also shares tips with Latina moms on the topics of cooking, parenting, entertainment, finance, fashion and beauty with the goal of making their daily lives better and easier.
Her words of encouragement to other parents: “First of all, start now and don't give up! Children may respond differently to the idea of a second language at different developmental stages. For instance, they may be open to a second language when young, but then show resistance as they get older. Then, later, they may show interest again. Above all, make it fun. Kids naturally respond to activities, games and lessons that are fun and engaging. Play games, watch movies in the second language, and sing songs—definitely, sing songs!”
Dariela Cruz, based in San Diego, California, blogs at MamiTalks
Cruz started her blog 9 years ago when she first became a mom. She initially thought raising a bilingual child would be a breeze. Turns out it was not so easy. Cruz then decided to embark on the OPOL method, where one parent speaks only in one language with the child. She then shared her experience on her blog for the benefit of other parents.
On MamiTalks, readers will find resources for bilingualism, such as books, apps, music and activities. They can also read about a real family raising bilingual children and learn from their trials and tribulations.
Cruz’s words for other parents: “Be patient and persistent! It's definitely not easy and it is hard work for everybody involved. Talk about it with friends, look for help. There are many ways and methods to raise bilingual kids. Not everything works the same way in every family, you just need to find your groove. In my opinion, if you are trying to do it, you are halfway there!”
Ana Flores, based in Los Angeles, California, runs the Facebook Page SpanglishBaby
SpanglishBaby was launched as a blog in 2009. As bilingual and bicultural Latina moms, Ana Flores and her friend Roxana Sarmiento were in search of a community, a resource site for bilingual moms wanting to raise bilingual children. “There was a huge lack of information on the topic, so we decided to do it ourselves and learn along the way,” Flores says.
The blog, no longer active since 2014, still contains a wealth of information, stories and expert advice on raising bilingual and bicultural kids. The Facebook page, with close to 130k Likes, continues to provide daily inspiration, articles, reviews and the latest research on bilingualism.
Flores’s message to other moms: “It really depends on the age of the child, which method they're using and the support system around them. But in general, most parents start feeling defeated when children are around 3 years old and they go into what we call the bilingual revolution stage where they refuse to speak Spanish. It's disheartening, but it's very normal and the worst thing a parent can do is stop speaking Spanish to them.”
Adam Beck, based in Hiroshima, Japan, blogs at BilingualMonkeys
Beck is a longtime teacher and parent of bilingual children. He began blogging at Bilingual Monkeys in the fall of 2012 and, when readers requested a forum so they could also interact with one another more directly, he opened The Bilingual Zoo in the summer of 2013. Earlier this year he released a book on raising bilingual children, Maximize Your Child’s Bilingual Ability.
His blog, forum, and book provide comprehensive information and guidance on successfully raising children in more than one language. It also provides the opportunity to interact with him and hundreds of other parents around the world for mutual support.
Beck’s message to other parents: “There is always a payoff to perseverance. In other words, it’s always possible to make stronger progress by reshaping the basic conditions of your situation and pursuing more effective efforts on a daily basis. My work offers ideas and inspiration that empower parents to sustain persistent and playful actions in order to experience greater success and joy on their bilingual journey.”
Marianna Hennig Du Bosq, based in Alexandria, Virginia, blogs at BilingualAvenue
Hennig Du Bosq released the first episode of the Bilingual Avenue podcast on October of 2014.
She started the podcast based on her experience as a language learner, bilingual educator, and now multilingual parent. As she prepared for the birth of her firstborn she realized that most multilingual parents feel alone in their journey. Many give up. Hennig Du Bosq wanted to do something to help these families and decided that podcasting was the vehicle she would use.
Bilingual Avenue is meant to be a guide for parents on what to do, how to do it and what to expect when raising bilingual children. Podcasts are free and available on iTunes and other podcast streaming applications. In each episode, Hennig Du Bosq interviews experts in multilingualism and bilingual parents and answers questions from listeners.
Her words of encouragement: “The first thing is to remember that the language journey is a marathon and not a sprint! Progress is far more important than perfection. I can guarantee that if parents increase exposure, create a need to use the language and focus on relevant vocabulary, they will see growth on their child’s language journey.”