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Well to start off, I am not fluent and neither is my husband. We are native English speakers and we have a 3 month old baby and want to teach her Spanish.
Both my husband and I know some Spanish. I don’t know how to say what level we are. We lived in Mexico for a year, can understand telenovelas (though sometimes we miss stuff), we speak ok, can get our point across, but speak somewhat slowly……..our accent is pretty gringo sounding…….So I guess I would say that we are conversational? Do we know enough? Also, I can’t imagine doing the OPOL option since it is not the native language for either of us. I know it is not recommended but I think that both of us speaking both languages would be best for us……. Any advice?
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I’m also a non-native Spanish speaker who is teaching my daughter Spanish. My own background is as follows… I am a native English speaker, married to a (100%!) native English speaker. Though I am mostly-fluent in Spanish, since I was raised by a Latina mother & British father. My parents practised OPOL with me and it worked great…except they pretty much stopped speaking Spanish to me once we moved to America (when I was about 5 years old)…at which point English completely took over. I’ve also studied abroad (Ecuador, Chile, Spain) and have worked hard to maintain my grasp of the language. Now I can commicate great…though I’m often running to the dictionary to translate things (like alligator, zucchini, starfish, etc.). Our daughter is 2 years old and we’ve been practising OPOL for about a year — with on & off again consistency. It’s very easy for me to migrate back to English and I have to work really hard not to do so all day long. The good news is that our daughter understands just about everything we say in both languages, though she (mostly) chooses to speak in English. I’ve heard this is common and I’m not too worried about it (yet). I’ve been reading a great book called “Raising a Bilingual Child” which has been wonderful motivation for me to keep going. I think its important that parents surround themselves with inspirational and helpful advice from those who have been there. On a separate note, I’d have to say that I’m also a great example of the fact that raising a child with a minority language (i.e. Spanish) does nothing to diminish how well a child will learn the majority language (i.e. English). I’m an English major with an emphasis in creative writing. English is (by far) my strongest academic skill, even though I’ve spent the majority of my life bouncing in & out of two languages. In fact, my parents still tease me that I only missed one spelling word in 6 years of Elementary School (the word was “ color” by-the-way, which I spelt “ colour” in protest to the fact that my 6th-grade teacher told me the British spelling wasn’t correct) I used to be really worried that I needed to know “all the right-&-wrong rules” about how to raise a bilingual child before starting down this path…but now I’m beginning to realize that every family’s/child’s experience is going to be different/unique. As long as your child doesn’t seem to be suffering &/or severly developmentally delayed, then any little bit you do can only have a positive influence on the future bilingualism of your child. Again that’s only advice from another “beginner” like me, but so far I’m SO glad we’ve started down this path and I hope we can stay the course! Best of luck! Sandra
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Thanks for your reply. I guess my real question is: how do I know if I speak well enough in Spanish to try teaching it to my daughter? Is there a “test” of some sort to know if I speak well enough? Thanks, Kara
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Sandra, I am also a non-native speaker that is teaching my two year old daughter Spanish. I learned Spanish as a high school student, majored in Spanish in college, studied abroad a few times, and taught middle school Spanish for eight years. When my daughter was born, I desperately wanted to teach her Spanish from the beginning. As a result, I have used the OPOL method with her while my English speaking husband speaks to her in English. Although I play DVDs and CDs in Spanish, read to her in Spanish a lot and sing and speak to her in Spanish, she is still improving faster and preferring English more than Spanish. I think the fact that both of our families and all of her friends speak English has influenced her more than I alone have. (And I’m home all day with her.) The most frustrating thing is that of all the Spanish native speakers that I’ve been meeting. all of their kids that are doing the same thing: preferring English over Spanish. (BTW, I’m in the U.S.)
I am more frustrated now, because recently my daughter started to mixing the languages with me. She knows I understand English because she hears me speak it all the time with everyone else so I assume that she’s getting lazy. I constantly say, ‘I don’t understand’ and she usually switches to Spanish, but it’s usually in a quick slurred fashion where her ‘quiero’ comes out like, ‘quier’ which is SOOO annoying because I know she can say it correctly. So my question to you (Sandra) or anyone else that is reading this thread is whether I should continuously correct her (it’s almost every time she speaks now) and make her say the Spanish phrase correctly or just model the proper way for her. Some people say that kids will eventually pick up corrections if you personally speak the language well. This method worked better at the middle school level where pre-teen egos were way more sensitive, but at this age, I feel like it’s okay to more aggressive. On a different note, it’s killing me to hear my native English speakers butchering English in front of my child and she doesn’t have the opportunity to hear ME speak it correctly. Can anyone relate to that? (For ex, ‘Look how well she’s running. She’s doing so good!’ Or, ‘Where are you at?’) Ugh! I can’t stand it. One of these days she’s going to start picking up those bad habits and I’m going to have to step in to correct her. I only hope it won’t be too late. Sandra, where in the U.S. are you located? I’m near D.C. Any chance we’re neighbors?
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I guess I’m in the same situation as you. I am English, living in England, am more or less fluent in general conversation in Spanish as I am a Spanish teacher and want to bring my child up as bi-lingual. Anyway, you were asking if you were fluent enough to manage it. Well, plersonally, if you can understand telenovelas and newspapers etc then I would say you are pretty fluent. I know that the problem comes when producing the language rather than understanding it for us non-native speakers. I would say that provided that your child is fairly young you will pick things up and improve as you go along. I would consider myself pretty fluent but I know I’m going to find baby talk hard in Spanish as I have no experience of it (my little one is due in May). I’m sure that with a bit of effort and input from a native spanish lady that I will handle it. Can you get any support from a native speaker. Maybe have converstation lessons? I’m also considering paying my Spanish colleague to come any play with my little one (provided I can afford it) and natter with her in Spanish so that she gets some authentic Spanish input. Also, depending where you live, there may be a Spanish community. Perhaps you could look inot whether they Spanish mothers (or fathers) and their children meet up or maybe even set a group up. Think about getting some DVDS etc too. If you are in the UK the early learning centre do a range of language cds of nursery rhymes, stores and songs in Spanish. Also, many English children’s DVDs like Thomas the Tank Engine have the option to watch them in Spanish. Just some ideas u might like to think about. Personally I would say give it a go and see what happens but then I’m no expert. That’s what I’m going to do anyway. It would be good to stay in contact to compare notes on how our kidies get on with their Spanish if you fancy. Just let me know ok? Take care Helen xxxxx
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I came across this website by accident. I was reading through your posts and had to comment. I was raised learning English and Spanish from age 5 & up. I learned Spanish through an immersion program at my elementary school. I grew up to graduate magna cum laude with a double major in Spanish & Business at my university.
Teaching kids when they are young is the easiest way to introduce a language. Nowadays, its not only beneficial but it will put your child at an advantage to other non-bilingual students. Although I am not a native speaker I hope to teach my children how to speak Spanish as well as English. It’s good to see other parents doing the same! Keep up the good work.
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Thanks Alexa for your encouragement. How fortunate you were to have an immersion program at your elementary school. Unfortunately, with the economy the way it is in the States, they’re cutting the elementary foreign language programs (which weren’t as integrated as I would have liked anyway). I’m so heartbroken about it, but at least I’m doing what I can at home. Thanks again for your reply.
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Hi Kara, I have a similar situation (though you sound more advanced — my original post from the general forum is below). What is similar is that I want to expose my son to Spanish and am not fluent enough to follow any of the methods used in multilingual families because we are not really a multilingual family. I am no expert but from what I am seeing, if you are going for fluency, your child would do best if he/she could be exposed to native-speakers though a playgroup, school, family members, ect. However, a non-native speaker should also not be afraid to use what she knows to go for one of the language systems or reinforce what the child is learning elsewhere. Where I get confused is how to reinforce without confusing my child? I worry that if I just speak a little bit of Spanish some of the time it might interfere with language development in English and I will end up with a child that thinks hola is an English word. I’ve heard about an option of speaking the mL in a certain place or time. I would be happy if I was able to give ds even just passive to basic knowledge of Spanish through early exposure and I haven’t found much additional information on sucessful ways to achieve that.
Hello, I am a native English speaker living in the US. I studied Spanish in college and have retained basic to intermediate knowledge (I can understand much more than I can communicate — I can read a toddler book and say some simple phrases with ease in Spanish, but beyond that I start to feel over my head). I am interested in exposing my son (15 months) to Spanish. I’ve read him a couple of books in Spanish, but so far that is all I have attempted. I thought it would benefit us both to join a bilingual play group. I had no luck finding one in my area, so I in the midst of arranging a once weekly Spanish play date with native-Spanish-speaking families at my church. It is a start, right? Anyway, these are my questions: I figure at the very least we will enjoy fun outing, but language-wise are there benefits to this type of minimal exposure? More importantly, would this type of exposure cause any harm in language development? All the information I am finding is related to children being raised bilingual. My son is still working on English, will randomly introducing small doses of Spanish confuse him or delay his English? I am looking for resources on dual language play groups or immersion play groups for young children (0-3). Anyone successfully do something like this? If it was dual, did you do play in one language and then the other or incorporate them both the whole time?