So much has changed in the three years since I had Cole. I had him in the States, too nervous to consider a birth overseas. This time we’re in Mexico, where I’m receiving amazing care, and at a tiny fraction of the cost (our birth will roughly cost the same as what we paid just to hire a midwife in the States — even if I end up with a c-section). In the last year I’ve been working on my Mandarin and Arabic, and Cole has started learning those languages too. So as I’m approaching a month left in this pregnancy, I’m thinking about what else I’ll do differently. I’m much more confident about having a bilingual child — I didn’t know what it would look like or how hard it would be, but kids really do “just pick it up”. It hasn’t confused Cole, and looking back, I wish I had started sooner (although we still have plenty of time). So with the new baby, I thought: okay let’s do it. Let’s raise the baby bilingual from the start.
The most popular method is called “one person, one language” (OPOL) and it basically means one parent speaks in one language, the other parent speaks in another. The child learns both languages at the same time. They grow up bilingual.
I never considered doing it before, because even though I have workable Spanish, I’m not bilingual. I’m not even close to fluent. But the more I researched, the more I found that you can do it, even if you don’t speak the language perfectly, especially if you’re committed to it, and are willing to keep learning. So I’ll speak Spanish and Drew will continue to speak English.
So where do you start?
Well I already have one child, so I don’t think it’s a good idea to just flip his language world upside down, so I’m going to ease into it. Over the next month, I’m slowly going to start introducing more Spanish. The first thing I’m switching is our bedtime stories. We bought several really nice books in Spanish — dinosaurs, sharks and fish — his favorite subjects and it’s nicely illustrated with lots of names of each animal written out. Normally we go through this ritual where I read a little, then he points to things and asks me the names of them. I do a lot of “naming things” so now I’ll just do it in Spanish. It makes it easy for me because I can just read the name off the book, and I’ll be learning with him.
When the baby comes, it’ll be easy to speak with her in Spanish (“hola bebe!”) but with Cole I’ll just continue to slowly transition, letting the context of the situation be my translator and researching/looking up vocabulary as I go so I have everything covered. I want to go fast enough that I don’t get stuck in a half-English / half-Spanish world but not so fast that Cole gets unduly frustrated.
Anyway I wanted to share my initial approach now, so when I update later, there’s something to compare it to. I am curious to see how it works out, but much like learning Arabic and Mandarin, I think it’s more about watching Cole and adjusting to him, then any top down approach I might have. He’s so quick to learn! It’s really amazing how much they soak up, and while it’s a little scary to me to make this leap (I’m not super confident in my Spanish so I worry about that), I think he’ll have the easier time of it.
Have you raised your kids in two languages? Or would you?