Preparing for the bilingual language journey from the start

Bilingual Journey from the start

On this episode of Bilingual Avenue, I chat with Amy Liermann about her family’s language journey with her baby.  The Question

I am a little insecure about being a non-native Spanish speaker and speaking exclusively in Spanish to my 2 month old son. What are some Motherese phrases you use in Venezuela when your baby is fussy or getting his/her diaper changed or getting a bath? (I could say some in English and you could say some for each scenario so all podcast listeners would benefit.)

The answer

The first thing I want to share with parents is that you can do no wrong in your baby’s eyes.  They are going to love your praise, your voice, your sounds more than anyone else’s so the first thing to focus on is just to talk. 

In those early days and months, what we are saying does not matter all that much so just start talking.  Start off by just narrating what you are doing and work on getting comfortable!

Amy also had specific questions about how to say the following kid-related term:

Do you have a dirty diaper? – ¿Tienes un pañal sucio?

Yucky! – ¡Guácala!

Pee-you!/ Stinky! – ¡Fo!

Let’s give you a bath – ¡Vamos a bañarte!

That’s better! – ¡Eso está mejor!

Splash – Plas

The Question

How do you handle using the target language in front of people who do not speak it?  I want to stick to Spanish exclusively with my son but do not want to exclude friends and family from the conversation.

The answer

The first thing I like to have parents think through when they are hesitant to speak the target language in the community is to think about what is at stake.   In my opinion, there are two things at stake and they are exposure and need.

Every time we switch, we lose an opportunity to provide exposure to the target language.

Every time we switch, we send a signal to our children that they not really need to speak the target language to communicate with us.

I realize that is easier said that sticking to the target language is easier said than done so here are some strategies to use if you find yourself facing this situation:

  • Repeat everything twice!
  • Speak exclusively to your child in the target language and when you need to supplement in the community language
  • Let others know why you are speaking to your child in another language and stick to your language policy

The Question

I am nervous about starting my son in an English-speaking daycare in the fall.  How can I flood him with enough Spanish at home to keep up his Spanish skills?

The answer

If your time together is limited, it is important to be intentional about how you spend your time together.

Playing with your child is one of the most important things you can do for them!  I encourage parents to commit to putting the screens down for 30 minutes a day if they can and focusing on interactions with their children.

When working on what types of words to teach to their children, focus on those that are relevant to them since they are more likely to learn things that are of interest to them.

I also encourage parents to read to their children aloud.  Books are helpful because they can help us to introduce more words to our children’s vocabulary and it allows us to leverage words that our children already know in other settings and environments.

Fill in your “lost time” like car rides back and forth to school with music. 

Talk to your your child’s teachers to understand what your children are learning in

Work with activities that are age appropriate and adjust those activities as they get older.

Autobahn

Amy hopped on the Autobahn and answered a few questions to help other families on their language journey:

  • What is your favorite resource for supplementing Spanish in your home?

 Children’s Songs including these three artists: Jaci Velasquez, Marta Gomez, and Muevete.

  • What is the best advice you have received as a bilingual parent?

Start at birth and never give up!

To learn more about the Bilingual Avenue Members’ Club and meet other connect with other members like Amy, head over to www.bilingualavenue.com/club

Get access to a library of training with practical advice for raising bilingual children, participate in our live members only calls, and join the supportive community of bilingual parents who will not let you quit on your language dreams for your family!

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Comments 2

  1. Nino Johnson

    I am billingual myself, well In fact I speak three languages fluently. I am talking to my daughter in my minority language (Georgian) even though she is only 5 months old I can see that she knows the difference between English and Georgian already! Teaching your child minority language depends on your determination, it is like I wanted to breastfeed my daughter and even I went through a lot of stress I have still achived my goal! Just do not give up and everything is possible. I can’t be thankful enough to my parents for raising me as a billingual child.

  2. Diana Sampedro. BABY ENGLISH

    Hi Amy,enhorabuena! Gracias Marianne for this post too. That story is inspirational for those parents who are involved in this non-native speaking journey with our kids. I am doing the same thing but the other way round. I speak English with my daughter and Spanish is my mother language. And it works. And there is a lot of vocabulary you need along the way. Well done and keep up the good work!

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