Esta entrada la escribí antes de que decidiera parar de blogear por un tiempo. Es una entrevista para mami maestra. La hice en inglés y no tengo muchas ganas de traducirla de momento, pero podéis usar el traductor de google, aunque uno nunca sabe los disparates que saldrán espero que os podáis dar una idea si es que os interesa el tema del bilingüalismo (o multilingualismo) y el homeschooling.
Latin Baby Book Club, asked me if I would like to contribute an interview for her recently launched blog called MOMMY MAESTRA, where she writes that:
The goal of this blog is not how to teach your children Spanish (there are already plenty of blogs and websites for that), but rather to share with you ideas and educational resources in English and Spanish that are available for those of you raising bilingual children.And as she also remarks, anyone that wants to find out resources and ideas to encourage the children love for learning will surely find plenty of both at her blog.
Needless to say I accepted her proposal and this is my contribution.
When I started blogging and had to decide on a title, HOMESCHOOLING IN A BILINGUAL HOME was the one which described what I was embarked to do with my girls. Although I have written about our family, believes, our thoughts about curriculum, our influences and principles that we hold for the girls education, I do not think I have talked much about how our bilingualism determines, shapes, enriches and challenges our homeschooling.
I have read many books that deal with bilingualism since my days at the university and teaching, but the most valuable observations are the informal ones I've seen of children and people (students, friends, family members) who had Spanish and English different degrees in their day to day, my friends who are immigrants or have other language and culture in their life. My years of raising my daughters in a family with two active languages, English and Spanish, and with Italian and Maltese, both spoken by my husband, have also provided me with some experiences and observations I'd like to share with you.
Often I believe we take bilingualism for granted at home. To me there is no boast in speaking Spanish, I lived in Madrid for 27 years, I learned English since I was little, my listening and speaking skills were not very good, but coming to live and work to Texas took care of that fast and dating a wonderful man with whom I had to speak in English took care of it even faster. My husband speaks three languages proficiently and he has conversational Spanish, we speak English at home with him but I speak Spanish to the girls when I'm alone with them and sometimes a bit in public, but I try not to appear as not polite or rude. Once around acquaintances I addressed my girls in Spanish while at the food line and was scorned by someone who I don't believe meant to insult, but who felt threatened by someone speaking in an unknown language. I try not to take offense because being a first generation immigrant (despite of the fact I am and feel a citizen of this exceptional country), I'm very conscious of the effort we should all do to adjust and become part of your new embraced country. My husband feels like this, and our girls are not only Americans, but GRITS (Girls Raised In The South ;-)
Back to BILINGUALISM. We have all heard the one parent one language saying. That is very true. If you can have that situation, children will normally learn both languages, their dominant language being the one they are surrounded and practicing more, but both languages will eventually be very well learned, specially if you homeschool, since sending them to school in just one language will drastically cut the exposure time to the second language. If parents both speak the minority language at home, and children go to schools in the dominant language, they have also a good chance of being bilingual. However, I've noticed that how much they can acquire or maintain both languages depend on how proficient and consistent the parents are or try to be in both languages.
It took us some time to believe that homeschooling is not something some weird parents who wanted to raise their children in a bubble chose to do.
And literacy and proficiency in a different language can be acquired at any age.
For all monolingual families who homeschool (monolingual sounds horrible but I don't know of a different way to call it), if your children have love for learning and you too, it's very likely they will want to learn another language. So many moms are teaching them German, French, or children learn with a tutor when they have the interest to learn a different language. If they live in other countries they will learn the language spoken there while being homeschooled less traumatically than they will do in other settings. There is no need to panic if they don't speak three languages, practice five sports, or play ten instruments. Having awareness of other cultures and people sets the basis for learning a language when life requires it. And in your homeschooling days, incorporating other languages through songs, others around, programs, classes, tutors, etc. will keep that door always opened. Sometimes the best way of learning a second or third language is to know your first language very well. The degree of literacy you posses in your mother tongue will transfer. You'll always push yourself to be as good in the language you are learning as you are in the language you know. I'm a reader and an aspiring writer in Spanish, once I learned English it was just as a natural transition to want to become that reader and writer in English. Thirteen years after I came to the States, I can proudly say I'm reading Great Expectations in the original, but I couldn't do so the first year.
Whether you know much or little, practice, learn more, use what you know, pick an easy book in a different language, or with some words in another language, read it to your children, make friends with someone who speaks a different language, ask her if she doesn't mind to speak some phrases, words, or even books in her language to your children at play dates. And if you are in a co op with a mom who is native in a different language plan informal activities for the young or more formal and fun classes for the older. Reading books about other places, cultures, and books that are wholesome, will ignite children curiosity and most likely they'll want to learn more about that culture, language included. My daughters have had an on an off fascination with Asian cultures, specially China, and they have learned some words they've seen in books and some watching Kaylan on the computer. Cartoons not in excess are good motivators for children, but remember that no matter how good the CD, program, tape, book, etc. nothing is as good as a parent. If we are the curriculum, when it comes to a second language spoken by the parent that's even more true.
Thank you Monica for asking me for the interview. I've been entertaining the idea of writing a book for some time now, and it may be something I'll eventually do since I see there is an audience for this topics of bilingualism in the homeschooling home. So please, feel free to leave your comments and suggestions, I appreciate them very much.