Lil’ Libros Interview & Giveaway

Patty Rodriguez-Ariana Stein-Lil' Libros-Interview-GiveawayWe’re all about supporting mamás that are entrepreneurs, hard workers, and go-getters. Which is why today, we’re ultra-excited to share our interview with Patty Rodriguez (Sr. Producer for On Air With Ryan Seacrest) and Ariana Stein. They are Latina entrepreneurs and co-creators of Lil’ Libros, a set of bilingual first concept books for babies and little ones.

Patty Rodriguez-Ariana Stein-Lil' Libros-Interview-Giveaway

TMO: How did Lil’ Libros come about?

Ariana: When Patty was pregnant with her first son, she wanted to make sure that he spoke her native language, Spanish.  She searched for bilingual books that not only presented her to a bilingual journey but that it had a purpose to introduce him to the Latino culture.  The idea was submitted to the largest publishers in the country. Unfortunately, many “no’s” were received, and one publisher expressed that Latinos did not read to their children.   That being said, the idea was shelved for a while.

Two years later, I had my first child and realized I shared many of the same feelings about child development and the benefits of bilingualism as Patty.  It was here that we decided to pursue bilingual children’s books and Lil’ Libros was born.

TMO: What prompted your decision to raise your children bilingually?

Patty: I think it is very important that my children know and understand who they are and where they come from. Though it is not a requirement to speak Spanish to identify as Latino, the language does go hand-in-hand with our cultural contributions. To me, it is most important that I raise my children in a bi-cultural environment. I don’t want to teach them per se about who we are, I want them to live it…I want it to be part of their identity and to me, Spanish is very much part of that identity.

Ariana: Aside from all the great benefits bilingualism has to offer such as improved cognitive function, I want to make sure that my son understood where he came from and who he is culturally.  Too many times people lose their identity when they assimilate and acculturate.  Being able to speak two languages has helped me in school and now professionally.  I want to ensure that he’ll grow up having a better understanding of the diverse world he lives in and being bilingual puts him on the right path.

Patty Rodriguez-Ariana Stein-Lil' Libros-Interview-GiveawayTMO: What positive growth or results have you witnessed in your children/family because of their bilingualism?

Patty: Nothing makes me more happy than hearing my son transitioning from Spanish to English and vice versa without even thinking.

Ariana: Being able to transition between English and Spanish as well as understanding what he’s doing at such a young age (3yrs), has been such a huge milestone in our bilingual world.  It makes me realize that I’m doing something right.

TMO: What are some roadblocks you’ve encountered along the way?

Patty: There are not enough tools for parents, but with Lil’ Libros we are hoping to change that. We are working on introducing other amazing products that will help parents raise a bi-cultural/bi-literate/bi-lingual child.

Ariana:  For Lil’ Libros, one of the roadblocks has been not having any mentors to go to for advice.  Patty and I have been on our own since day one.  We’ve made plenty of mistakes but have learned from them and continue to grow as a company and individuals.Patty Rodriguez-Ariana Stein-Lil' Libros-Interview-Giveaway

TMO: What advice or encouragement can you share with other families raising their children bi-/multi- lingually?

Patty: It is not easy. But like everything in life that is worth doing and having, you have to work hard for it. Do not give up, our books are perfect little seeds to help introduce a second language at home. Our books have been created to inspire parents to read to their little ones in two languages.

Ariana: I agree with Patty. It’s definitely not an easy task, but don’t give up, and try as many methods as possible. Continue buying books or tools that will help you lead the way to bilingualism.  Your children will thank you later!

Patty Rodriguez-Ariana Stein-Lil' Libros-Interview-GiveawayA big thank you to Patty and Ariana for this interview and for partnering up with The Mother Overload to give one lucky winner 5 Lil’ Libros. Including their newest titles, Cuauhtémoc and Un Elefante. These books introduce shapes and numbers in both Spanish and English with amazing cultural illustrations. Mia and Lexi really enjoy reading them.

Patty Rodriguez-Ariana Stein-Lil' Libros-Interview-Giveaway

Patty Rodriguez-Ariana Stein-Lil' Libros-Interview-Giveaway
Follow us on Instagram and be on the lookout for the Lil’ Libros giveaway this week! Click HERE to follow. And stop by Target to check out all the Lil’ Libros books.

 

 

Abrazos (Hugs) — Gladys

 

 

 

 

 

Bilingual Parenting Journey: Meet Jiovana


Bilingual-Parenting-Journey
Today, my mamá friend Jiovana opens up about her families bilingual journey. She shares a pretty clever thing to do to assist her with teaching her oldest a second language.

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TMO: What made you decide to teach your child a second language or multiple languages? Describe how you feel it will benefit him/her down the road.

Jiovana: We never even really discussed it, because we both assumed we were going to raise our children bilingual. We both have a strong interest in other languages and cultures, and realize the benefits of raising children who can speak more than one language. So we were both always on the same page in that regard.

We live in a multicultural and multilingual world, where even in the United States more than one language is spoken on a routine basis. It is important both economically and in developing a respect for other people.

TMO: Do you feel it has helped your child learn multiple languages since your husband also speaks another language?

Jiovana: Yes, my husband speaks some Spanish at home. We could do a lot better job speaking to each other in Spanish, but he speaks to our children in Spanish, reads books in Spanish, and teaches them new words. He isn’t fully fluent in Spanish, but can speak enough to help teach them at home.

Also, we both encourage our children, well mainly our almost 4-year­-old daughter, since our son is only 4-months-old, to hear and try other languages. My husband and I aren’t really speakers of languages like French, German, Italian, or Portuguese, but we know some of the basics in those languages. So we encourage counting or colors in those languages, and our daughter enjoys trying those out, which hopefully will encourage a life­long interest in learning.

TMO: What are some roadblocks you’ve encountered along the way?

For the first 3 years of Elvira’s life, we were living outside of the United States, so she was not hearing English on a regular basis except at home. So I was more likely to communicate with her in Spanish and she would respond and understand.

But now that we are living in the US, she hears English all the time, and so that is probably going to be the language she uses most. Even though she understands Spanish, she usually responds in English. So it is a struggle to balance Elvira’s daily needs with our desire to raise a bilingual child.

Another challenge is speaking to my husband in Spanish because we are so used to talking to each other in English. It would be beneficial to our daughter at this point, if we spoke mainly Spanish in the house, because she already has a good command of English.

What are 3 tips you can give parents that are currently trying to teach their children more than one language but are finding it to be too difficult?

a. Make it fun! Kids love to sing and dance, so listen to songs in other languages and make­up your own dances. They will quickly pick up the words to the song!

b. Have one parent be the main speaker of the target language. Try to have the child repeat words and simple requests in that language.

c. Read children’s books in the target language. Not only with they help your child, but they will also help your spouse if they aren’t fluent! Books really do help cement words in a new language for a child. Also, if I can’t find books in Spanish that I like, I just will read the book in Spanish, even though it is written in English. Our daughter can’t read yet, so she doesn’t know the difference!Bilingual-Parenting-Journey

Thanks Jiovana for sharing a little bit about your bilingual parenting journey. Dancing, singing and reading sure makes learning another language fun!! And I love the idea of translating books. Very clever!

Abrazos (Hugs) — Gladys

Bilingual Parenting Journey: Meet the Boudreault-Grzeszczak’s

 

Lazy Moms Blog -Bilingual Parenting JourneyI’ve teamed up with my talented mamá friend Joanna from LazyMomsBlog.com. She loves to cook, bake and craft. This mama has some pretty delicious home-made ice cream recipes up on her blog. Hurry, summer is not over yet!

Today, Joanna opens up about the wins and struggles of teaching her two sweet girls French and her mother tongue, Polish.

TMO: Tell us a little about yourself and family.

Joanna: My name is Joanna, I’m a wife to my best friend and a mom of two sweet girls, Lili and Rose. I’m a writer and content creator at LazyMomsBlog.com, and I’m passionate about interior design and mindful living. I love sharing parenting tips from my psychological perspective, yummy recipes and fun lifestyle ideas.

TMO: What made you decide to teach your children a second language or multiple languages? Describe how you feel it will benefit them down the road.

Joanna: I grew up in Poland and moved to Canada when I was 25 years old, so it was only natural for me to speak Polish to my kids. My hubby is French Canadian, and we live in Montreal, so most of our everyday life happens in French.

But I also truly believe that learning a new language stimulates general development, empathy, and creativity! As a child learns different metaphors he’s also learning different ways of thinking and looking at world in general. ( Not to mention the academic/ carrier/travel /meeting people benefits of speaking multiple languages!)Lazy Moms Blog -Bilingual Parenting Journey

TMO: Does your significant other also speak more than one language at home? If so, do you feel it has helped your child in learning another language?

Joanna: My hubby speaks French to kids, and sometimes we speak English between the two of us. So our older daughter is definitely very motivated to learn English and understand our whispers!

TMO: What are some roadblocks/struggles you’ve encountered along the way?

Joanna: At the very beginning it was a bit difficult to be the only person speaking Polish to our first baby, but then I got on track by singing, constantly talking and ended up with a very talkative little girl. With my second daughter, the story is a bit different, as it’s her older bilingual sis that speaks mostly French to her when they play. So my second one speaks more French than Polish at the moment, but I’m definitely not giving up on her!

Lazy Moms Blog -Bilingual Parenting Journey

And how cute are these little ladies??!

TMO: What’s a tip you can give parents that are currently trying to teach their children more than one language but are finding it to be too difficult?

Joanna: I believe that kids will always try to facilitate their life, so if a parent mixes languages while speaking to a child, the kid will pick the language that is more common and won’t speak the minority language. That’s why my most important tip is : stick to one and only one language while talking to/with your kids! Don’t switch! And don’t worry that others don’t understand you. You can explain to family and friends why you’re doing this bilingual thing. But most importantly, be consistent and patient, and it will pay off!

A big thank you to Joanna for sharing a little about her bilingual parenting journey! It is so hard to teach kids multiple languages but we got this! Have you tried Joanna’s suggestion to stick with one language while speaking to your children? Particularly the minority language? Such a great idea. Way to go mama!

To find out more ways and tips on how to raise bilingual children, stop by Joanna’s blog here: LazyMomsBlog.com

 

Abrazos (Hugs) — Gladys

Bilingual Parenting Journey: Meet Maria

Bilingual-Parenting-Journey-Trilingual-MultilingualI’m excited and thrilled to hear that you’re all loving this new bilingual series. I really appreciate all the support and love. And I absolutely can’t wait to share with you all some neat posts that are already in the pipeline and filled with great tips.

Today, my sweet mamá friend Maria shares with us a little bit about her trilingual parenting journey and more importantly how she continues to teach her son languages not spoken at school.trilingual-bilingual-journey

Hello! I’m Maria and I live in Montreal with my son Alessandro (7 yo) and my boyfriend Jason. Both myself and Alessandro are trilingual (Spanish, English and French) with English being the primary language spoken at home.

TMO: What made you decide to teach your child a second language or multiple languages? Describe how you feel it will benefit him/her down the road. 

I grew up in a Spanish household with a Nicaraguan mom and a Greek dad so from birth I was exposed to Spanish, Greek, and English (at school). We moved to Montreal when I was 7 years old and within a year I was speaking French as well. I have always known that if and when I had kids they would speak the same languages as me. I am positive that Alessandro can only benefit from this, as I have myself – at work, with friends, through travels, etc. Even if it just means things like ordering food with ease – my dad never learned French and I’ve watched him struggle more than once at the drive-thru 🙂IMG_3593

TMO: Does your significant other also speak more than one language at home? If so, do you feel it has helped your child in learning another language?

Alessandro’s father is Mexican and we would speak Spanish together so of course, that helped a lot. It was his first language and almost the only thing he would hear. He only starting learning English and French at his daycare which he started at 18 months. Shortly after that his dad and I split up and by the time Alessandro started really talking, he began talking to me in English and we eventually just made the switch. I don’t worry that he would lose his Spanish since he spends a lot of time with my parents (speaking in Spanish) and of course he still speaks to his dad and his dad’s family in Spanish as well. The English and French are a given between school and his life at home.

TMO: What are some roadblocks you’ve encountered along the way? 

It has honestly all just kind of worked out. Alessandro is around all 3 languages so much that he can’t avoid knowing them 🙂 I did try putting him into Greek school for a couple of years on Saturday afternoons and he managed to learn his alphabet, numbers, colors and some words but without the practice in between, it’s hard. That is a big part of why I never managed to be fluent in Greek either because I just wasn’t exposed to it enough. It’s so important! I think I know more Italian than Greek just from spending so much time at my BFF’s house eating dinner with her family.

TMO: What are 3 tips you can give parents that are currently trying to teach their children more than one language but are finding it to be too difficult? 

Anything and everything counts. Books, songs, movies, whatever! Be patient and trust that it will come but don’t forget you still need to put in the time. Don’t worry if you’re the only one in your household who speaks the language, one person is enough if you’re consistent. And of course, don’t forget to have fun 🙂

TMO: Would you mind talking about what you do to continue to teach him the languages not spoken at school? 

Throughout his years in daycare, Alessandro spoke French and would question why I would speak to him in Spanish. I never stopped switching between the 3 languages though nor did I ever pressure him into speaking whatever I was addressing him in and by the time he made it to first grade, he jumped on board with all 3. He has French at school 24/7 and he likes reading in French so I don’t worry about it too much, we speak English at home when we’re together as a family and I address him in Spanish regularly so that neither of us loses the habit. His quality time with his grandparents plays a big part in his continued learning as does our reading together. Regular exposure to people who will talk to him in Spanish is what I consider the key, more so than anything else.

TMO: Je vous remercie Maria for opening up about your multilingual parenting journey. Such a great idea to keep another language fresh in kids minds by speaking it with their grandparents. Brilliant Mamá!

Abrazos (Hugs) — Gladys

Bilingual Parenting Journey: Meet The Saint-Lo’s

Bilingual Parenting - The Mother OverloadThis week, I’ve teamed up with my bilingual mamá friend Kris and her family of three. Kris shares with us a little about herself, family plus a great stress-free tip on how to teach kids a second language.

TMO: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your family.

Kris: Hi, I’m Kris! I’m a stay-at-home mom from Montreal, where I share a home with my very free-spirited 5-year-old son, Jude and my fiancé, Erich. When we aren’t outside playing like monkeys at the park or exploring our city, we are home dancing to some tunes on the record player with the floors covered in Thomas the engine and his friends. Mom life, right!?

I also have a lifestyle blog called, Motherhood in Stilettos. What was once just a platform being used as form of self-expression, it quickly turned into a place where I help busy mamas cook up vegetarian recipes without breaking a sweat and I share some candid stories about motherhood. I also sneak in a bit of my favorite beauty products here in there.

TMO: What made you decide to teach your child a second language or multiple languages?

Kris: Being Haitian and Hungarian, I was raised in a multilingual family, but English and French were the dominant languages. Living in a French-speaking province and attending French school, I always knew that I was going to raise Jude with two languages like I was. I believe that by raising our child bilingual, will set him up for success. It will be helpful for his career, as well as traveling the world…If he decides to.

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TMO: Does your significant other also speak more than one language at home? If so, do you feel it has helped your child in learning another language?

Kris: My fiancé was also raised in a multilingual home, with German, English and French. Unfortunately, he doesn’t speak German (shh! Don’t tell him I said that), but he is bilingual like myself. We have always been on the same page when it came to raising Jude bilingual, so it’s great to have to the two of us teach him and help him along.

TMO:What are some roadblocks/struggles you’ve encountered along the way?

Kris: Jude isn’t your typical dude. A little after he turned one, we knew that he was a little different from most babies his age. He wasn’t responding to his name much and by 2 years old he regressed in his speech. Around this time last year, he was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Having a big speech delay, proved to be very difficult to teach him a second language when he already had a hard time learning his mother tongue. I thought it was going to be impossible to teach him French, but even though he isn’t exactly bilingual, we found a way to teach him that works.

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We don’t speak to him in full sentences in French, instead, we teach him key words in both languages. For example, when we ask him to sit down, we also say it in french “assieds-toi”. We built a habit of that and now he repeats it on his own and can pick up the word when someone else uses it. This will help him greatly for when he will attend a bilingual school, where they alternate between English and French.

TMO: What’s a tip you can give parents that are currently trying to teach their children more than one language but are finding it to be too difficult?

Kris: If your child can’t pick it up now and it’s become stressful, don’t give up! Find a fun way to teach them. One of the best ways is using your child’s interests. Jude LOVES trains! We’ve taught him almost everything that he knows by using them. He’s learned his colors, numbers, alphabet and shapes.

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Bilingual Parenting - The Mother Overload

TMO: Je vous remercie Kris for opening up about your bilingual parenting journey. Such a great idea to get kids interested in another language through their own interests. Absolutely love that Jude has learned so much via his train toys. That’s just brilliant! Way to go mom and dad.

Stop by Kris’ beautiful blog Motherhood in Stilettos to see her latest vegetarian recipes and candid stories about motherhood.

Abrazos (hugs) — Gladys

The Importance of Talking, Reading & Singing During The First 5 Years

Talk-Read-Sing-First 5 CA

The Importance of Talking, Reading & Singing During The First 5 Years

Ever since I found out I was pregnant with our first, I immediately began to talk and sing to her. I also started reading books out loud when I was around 6 months pregnant in hopes that she would hear my voice and recognize it when she was born. Little did I know, I was actually working on our daughters brain development as well.

According to First 5 California,  “By the age of 5, your child’s brain will have grown to 90% of its adult size. But even earlier than that, by age 3, it’s already reached 82% of its size.” Wow, now isn’t that impressive?!

Research also shows time and time again that talking, reading and singing are things we can do with our kids that will make a large impact early on to their brain development. For this very reason, we have always been strong supporters of First 5 California. Their site is filled with resources including an activity center, health center, learning center and even FREE music that arm parents with information and ideas on how to help shape child brain development. So stop by and browse around. Endless ideas for us parents.

Also, if you follow us, you know by now how important it is for us that Mia (our four-year-old), talks, reads and sings in both English and Spanish. We’re big supporters of bilingualism and multilingualism as there is 20+ years worth of research that shows the benefits of knowing two or more languages, especially when learned at an early age.

Per Ellen Bialystokdistinguished research professor of psychology at York University confirmed during an audio recording of  The Latest Research On Bilingualism And The Brain on The Diane Rehm Show, thatBilinguals have a huge level of cognitive and neural control. From the first year of life, a child in their crib hearing their parents speak a foreign language develop their brain as a function of the environment in which they live in and everything is shaped by those experiences.”  She also goes on to say that “infants are wired to be interested in language and so if an infant from its earliest days, is in a language; is in an environment where there are two languages, that right away is shaping brain development.”

For more information on the benefits of teaching your little one(s) a second language early on, stop by our previous bilingual posts here.

The Importance of Talking

 

One of the things we’ve noticed over the course of Mia’s four-year lifespan is her vocabulary. I admit, it helps that she’s a social butterfly and by no means an introvert, but we attribute her fast-paced vocabulary growth to talking to her. She is constantly challenging us with questions and currently talks up a storm all. day. long.

Mia also loves playing games, as most kiddos do, but one of her favorites is a juggling word game. The game is quite simple and can be played pretty much anywhere at any time. For example, when we’re at the grocery store looking for items to check off of our list, we go over each item needed in English and have her translate them into Spanish as we find them and add them into our grocery cart. It’s so neat to see her juggle from one language to the other and let me just say, she gets ultra excited when she gets them right.

The Importance of Reading

 

Reading for us has also played a large role in our household. Aside from taking Mia to a co-op preschool and our local library, we also read a new book to her every week. That book is our go-to book for the entire week. We make arts and crafts around the books topic and read the book daily to the point where she memorizes it. It’s neat to see her point at words now and actually read them. Plus, now she talks, reads and sings to baby sister too (even though she’s in the womb still). Cutest thing ever!

Talk-Read-Sing-First 5 CA

The Importance of Singing

 

This is an embarrassing one as I’m more likely to win an award for the worse mom singer, ever. At any rate, I love singing with our little one and watching her learn new words from the songs themselves. Here’s a short video of Mia singing a Spanish children’s song karaoke style back in March. She sure knows how to put on a show.

Getting Ready For Fall

 

So what are we doing currently to get ready for fall in our household? Aside from decorating, baking and cooking together, we’ve teamed up with a group of moms (kids with similar ages) and we’re talking, reading and singing to them outdoors. We meet once a week at a local park and focus on hands-on experiences. This week, it was all about Fall and leaves. They sang, picked leaves and learned about the differences between each leaf they collected.

Talk-Read-Sing-First 5 CA

Talk-Read-Sing-First 5 CA

Talk-Read-Sing-First 5 CA

What are some activities you do to stimulate your little one’s brain development? Let us know in the comments below!

And don’t forget to check out First 5 California, their Activity Center. It’s a great resource for parents with newborns, babies, toddlers and preschoolers. I always say, we are our children’s very first teachers and we have a rather large responsibility to focus on their brain development more so during their first 5 years of life. Thanks to First 5 California, we have a free resource at hand to help us generate new ideas and to help shape Mia’s brain development.

#first5california #first5CA #talkreadsing

Cheers to brain development!

Abrazos — Gladys

 

*Background music provided by Purple Planet for videos

Count Down To Preschool!

Count-Down-To-Preschool

Shorts: TJ Maxx; Tank Top: Target; Sunnies: Janie & Jack; Shoes: Converse

I’ve always thought that I’d be super excited for Mia’s first day of school. Picturing Mia running into school with a ginormous backpack in tow ready to absorb all the information in a classroom setting seemed so neat but well into the future. Well, let me tell you. It certainly has creeped up on me. Mia’s turning four years old this month and entering preschool all within a week from each other and well it’s just tearing me up thinking about it.

As if being a first time parent wasn’t hard enough, I’m terrified for the simple reason that Mia has food allergies one of which is severe. And while searching for preschools, some confirmed that they’re actually not allowed to inject our little one with her Auvi-Q (EpiPen) should she be in anaphylactic shock. They made it quite clear that Mia would have to inject herself unless there was a certified nurse on staff. Say What?! What four-year-old is willing to inject themselves or better yet, be able to do so themselves?

So obviously at the top of our preschool must-have list was a “nurse on staff.” There’s no way I’m leaving Mia at a preschool that will not do anything to help should she have an allergic reaction. Also, at the top of our list, location. We wanted the school to be in close proximity to our home. It’s scary to think about little ones sharing foods during snack time or lunch time and my little one accidentally eating something that will prevent her from breathing. Having the reassurance that a school staff member can inject her with her meds and that I’m nearby to rush her to the hospital is key.

Count-Down-To-PreschoolLastly, we really wanted a dual immersion program as Mia is fully bilingual (i.e. Spanish and English). By the way, she completed her first Spanish program this past year and did really great so we’re focused on making sure she continues to learn both languages simultaneously.

Sadly though, the dual immersion program is not offered at any of our nearby preschools. However, we received an amazing Spanish preschool/ kindergarten package from a sweet mamá friend that happens to teach in a dual immersion setting. ¡Mil gracias Magda! This package will help me home school Mia in Spanish all while she studies in English via her new Co-op preschool. I know it will not be easy to home school more so in a second language but I’m hopeful that the combo will be beneficial for our little ones future. Wish us luck!

So as you can see, we didn’t end up getting everything on our must-have list but we did get the most important thing; a staff that is willing to administer Mia’s medication. Plus, it’s a top ranked Co-op preschool so I get to be actively present a few days a month in her classroom. I’m also bummed that she’s actually not allowed to take a backpack to preschool as the staff mentioned it’s hard for most preschoolers to get stuff in and out of them. Instead, they have to bring buckets with a snack bag, water bottle and jacket if it’s cold out.

Count-Down-To-Preschool

Love Mia’s spill-free Wow Cup and the Yumbox which is Leakproof!

So much for that dream I had of her running down the hallway on her first day of school with a ginormous backpack on her back waving good-bye. I’ll need to work on loving these so called ‘buckets.”Count-Down-To-Preschool

And what about all the emotions that come with your first-born starting school? I’m sad just thinking about it. Yes, it’s just preschool (I know I need to get a hold of myself) but seriously I’m going to be that crazy mom sitting in the school parking lot crying a river. Waiting. Wondering if she’s ok. Wondering if her teacher will be nice. Wondering if she’ll like it. Pass the tissue box.

Let the count down and floodgates officially begin. Less than three days to be exact! Oh my, I’ve become that overprotective parent I said I would never be. 🙂

Abrazos — Gladys

 

Our Journey Through Bilingual Parenting

I can vividly remember the night we found out I was pregnant. The excitement, the overload of hugs and kisses, the happy tears, which were then followed by an overwhelming feeling of  anxiety. I began to wonder how on Earth I would be able to bring a child into this world and ensure he/she had the very best.

As parents, we all want what’s best for our children but ‘what’s best’ in it self may differ from parent to parent or may even be unclear for some. We (my husband and I) knew, however, that there weren’t any manuals or cookie cutter books to teach us how to be the best parents we could be but we for sure knew that I wanted our children to learn our culture, traditions and language. For us, being bilingual is invaluable.

BilingualFamily

So where does all this passion for bilingual parenting stem from? Well, it all dates back to when my folks immigrated from México, became U.S. citizens and spoke their native language exclusively at home throughout my childhood. In fact, my father, still to this day, speaks only Spanish at home. I cherish the time and effort  my parents put into teaching me Spanish as my first language. Yes, you read that correctly! Spanish was my first language. It wasn’t until 2nd grade that I learned to read and write English. I was fortunate to be in a school district that provided a kindergarten through 1st grade Spanish program with a complete transition to the English language during 2nd grade. In retrospect, I now realize this paved the way for my journey as a bilingual in the workforce.

Now, as a bilingual mother, along with my  bilingual husband, we’re raising our three-year old daughter in both Spanish and English. Not because it was expected but rather as a way to pass down our culture and traditions to our offspring. More importantly, we want to raise a bilingual child in this increasingly globalized world. We want our daughter to appreciate, communicate and be able to interact with people across cultures, generations and countries. And I’m beginning to realize that we are not the only parents in this school of thought.

According to an NBC Latino article, Bilingual mania: Parents are taking a second look at raising bilingual children, written by Monica Olivera, “Despite the English-only rhetoric in some sectors of the country, a growing number of Latino and non-Latino families alike see the value in raising bilingual children and are seeking out resources to help them teach a second language at home.”

Being that there is a growing number of families teaching a second language at home, I wanted to share some bilingual benefits and misconceptions. I also invited three mamás to join me in sharing their journey as bilingual (and even multilingual) parents. They share great tips on  how to keep a second or even third language present in a  household along with some sweet words of encouragement.

Benefits 

According to the Beverly Hills Lingual Institute (BHLI), “The brain benefits immensely from speaking two or more languages from improved cognitive skills, to developing denser grey matter, to improved decision making skills, and even delaying the onset of dementia. Bilingualism improves children’s test scores and critical thinking abilities, as well as concentration and multi-tasking abilities. Speaking two languages also means a better salary in the workforce across a wide array of professions.”

Below is an infographic directly from BHLI’s site which lists the the benefits of speaking two languages as opposed to one along with their sources.
How-the-brain-benefits-from-being-bilingual

There is also 20+ years worth of research that show the benefits of knowing two or more languages, especially when learned at an early age.

Per Ellen Bialystokdistinguished research professor of psychology at York University confirmed during an audio recording of  The Latest Research On Bilingualism And The Brain on The Diane Rehm Show, thatBilinguals have a huge level of cognitive and neural control. From the first year of life, a child in their crib hearing their parents speak a foreign language develop their brain as a function of the environment in which they live in and everything is shaped by those experiences.”  She also goes on to say that “infants are wired to be interested in language and so if an infant from its earliest days, is in a language; is in an environment where there are two languages, that right away is shaping brain development.”

Misconceptions 

  • Children will get confused and not learn either language correctly
  • Impairs their speech
  • Hinders academic and intellectual development

Not trying to be one-sided here but there is absolutely zero evidence that the above is true. In fact, research proves the exact opposite.

According to the Cornell Language Aquisition Lab (CLAL), “Although some parents and educators may have concerns about the potential for confusion, bilingual children do not suffer language confusion, language delay, or cognitive deficit (Werker & Byes-Heinlein, 2008; Petitto & Holowka, 2002; Yang & Lust, 2004; Yang, 2007). The mystery of first language acquisition is intensified when we realize that a child can and does naturally acquire more than a single language at once.”

CLAL also confirms that, “children learning a second language in an immersion setting show an overall success rate of grammatical knowledge similar to English monolinguals. Initial deficit in vocabulary (word learning) was followed by a fast pace of development, ultimately reaching the monolingual mean.”

Bios & Tips From Other Bilingual/Multilingual Parents

Meet Audrey

EspañolitaMy name is Audrey Kratovil (pronounced: KRÁ-to-vil), or as my madrileño husband, D., has always called me: españolita because of my love for all things Spain. I grew up in the Washington, DC area in a monolingual English-speaking home. I started studying Spanish as a second language in school at the age of 12, and from day one I fell in love with it. I eventually earned a B.A. in Spanish from Georgetown University, during which time I spent a year studying in Madrid, where I met my husband. I later earned an M.A. in Linguistics, with a focus on second language acquisition, also from Georgetown. I’m a Nationally Board Certified English teacher and spent nearly eight years teaching English as a Second Language and later English literature at a large urban high school in Virginia. I left my job last June to stay home with my now one-year old daughter, E., with whom I speak exclusively in Spanish. I now blog at Españolita…¡Sobre la Marcha! about my adventures in bilingual parenting.

Meet Keila

MommyinMilwakeeKeila graduated with a B.S. and worked in the medical field (on & off) for close to 7 years. As a post-graduate she conducted and presented research in Applied Linguistics titled “Effectiveness of English to Spanish Translation of Emergency Room Discharge Instructions”  in order to determine ways to improve the interpretation and discharge process for non-native English speakers. She began graduate school to continue on with her research; however, she postponed it to stay home with her two boys. “I am so thankful I am able to stay home with them and teach them as many skills as I am able! And Spanish is my very favorite!” says Keila.

Meet Melissa

melissamillerBased in Los Angeles, California, Melissa is mommy to two precious girls, Amelie, 2 1/2, and Elise, 6 months. She earned her BA in Advertising from California State University, Fullerton and has been in the advertising industry for more than a decade working on a wide range of clients — from Honda to First 5 California. Since becoming a mommy, Melissa balances a part-time position in an ad agency with writing and being a stay-at-home mom. When she isn’t working on flowcharts, playing with legos or doing tummy time, you can find Melissa taking a nap. ☺

What made you decide to teach your child a second language or multiple languages? 

Audrey: We have chosen to raise our daughter, E., bilingually and bi-culturally because it is a reflection of her mom and dad. Each language is a part of our individual cultures and backgrounds, which we want her to have. Just as our parents and grandparents pass down precious heirlooms, my husband D. and I view our languages and cultures as treasures to pass on to E. Second, the number of Spanish-speakers in the United States is on the rise: by the year 2020, some 43 million people will speak it. So, by the time E. is an adult, knowing both English and Spanish will serve her well when looking for work. Finally, our world is no longer just confined to our neighborhoods, cities, and countries. Our world is global (not to sound redundant!). The majority of people around the world are multilingual, so we want to equip E. with the same skill set so that she can communicate and relate to people beyond her immediate city and country.

Keila: As a bilingual person I wanted to teach our children a second language from day one. I know how beneficial it has been for me both personally and professionally and I wanted to share that with our children. It has been a huge benefit for me to speak more than one language especially in our growing globalized work-force. Not only are they being challenged intellectually by learning another language but they are adding another skill set under their belts. I can only imagine how much more diversified the work force will be once they can be out on their own. I just hope it doesn’t come by too fast!

Melissa: Language and culture have always been a big part of my life. My father is Armenian and my mother was French Canadian, so I was automatically born into a trilingual household – Armenian, French and English. As a tiny tot, I learned all three, with Armenian and English being my two more dominant languages.

Fast-forward to today, I’m a proud mother of my own two little girls who are also learning different languages. When I was pregnant, my husband and I agreed to teach – or at least expose – our girls to as much Armenian, French and Spanish as possible, with a special focus on Armenian since it’s the hardest to learn. It sounded great on paper, and it seemed easy to accomplish. But I will admit that we’ve had several challenges in our way, mostly dealing with the fact that my Armenian and French “networks” are quite small (all of my relatives live in Montreal, thousands of miles away, and neither language is considered common here), giving my kids little community exposure to the languages overall.

Do you think teaching your child more than one language has confused them or possibly caused speech delays? 

Audrey: Since E. is only twelve months old, she hasn’t yet begun to speak (she IS babbling up a storm!).  However, from a linguistics perspective (my background), I’d like to clarify the misconception that a child learning more than one language will delay his/her language acquisition. Research in language acquisition has shown that, although there is some variability of the rate that bilingual children acquire both languages, all major linguistic milestones are met at around the same time as their monolingual peers (Grosjean 2012; King and Mackey 2007). Just as there is variability in language development among monolingual children, so too is each bilingual child different, acquiring both languages at different rates. I wrote a more detailed blog post here if you’re interested in learning more about this valid concern.

Keila: Not at all, our first son Gabriel who is now 21 months is able to speak both English and Spanish without any confusion. Eventually they will both learn to “borrow” from both English and Spanish but I know they will have a solid base to be fluent in both. And hopefully a third once they are enrolled in a language emersion school!

Melissa: Based on the reading I’ve done over the past couple of years, delays happen occasionally, but they are very mild and short-lived. I think a tiny delay is so worth it if it means having a bilingual child as the end result. That said, however, my 2 ½ year old has not experienced issues with understanding, processing and using two languages. In fact, she’s even helping her daddy learn Armenian. He dropped her off at preschool the other day and the teacher told her in Armenian that they were going to have “havgeet for nakhajash” (eggs for breakfast). My husband didn’t understand what she said, but Amelie turned to him and translated, “Daddy, that means we’re having eggs today!”

Does your significant other also speak more than one language at home? If so, do you feel it has helped your child in learning another language?

Audrey: I was born and raised in the Washington, DC area in a monolingual English-speaking home. D. grew up in Madrid, his native language Castilian (Spanish). Since we met in Spain, we’ve always spoken to each other – and still do – only in Spanish. As my husband is fond to say, “el castellano es el idioma oficial de nuestra relación” (Spanish is the official language of our relationship.). For this reason, and because we live in the United States where the majority language is English, we have chosen to both speak to E. in Spanish (the minority language). While some bilingual families follow the “One Parent-One Language” approach, we chose the “Minority Language-Home” approach because we believe the increased amount of Spanish input our daughter receives (from both parents) will better help her to achieve what we hope will be a balanced bilingualism.

Keila: My husband learned Spanish in college; however, he was not fluent at the beginning of our marriage. We knew that we wanted to both speak to our children in Spanish and I was not only teaching our son but also teaching by husband more of the language. I believe it has definitely helped us teach our son Spanish because we both speak it in the home. Although it is challenging at times to find the right words in Spanish that we only know in English.

Melissa: My dear husband has taken a few Armenian courses, but is only fluent in English. Yep, it’s on me. And I’ll admit, sometimes it’s a little tough. It’s too easy to just speak English when we’re all together at home, because it’s what my husband understands and it’s the fastest way to communicate as a family. Even though I’m multilingual, I’ve always been English-dominant, so my first response tends to be in English, adding to the list of challenges. But, no excuses. This is too important. Sticking to our goal, I had to think of other ways to integrate languages into our household to give my babies the gift of multilingualism.

What are a couple tips you can give parents that are currently trying to teach their children more than one language but are finding it to be difficult?

Audrey: I would keep in mind the big picture, but take it one day at a time. The big picture? By raising our children to speak more than one language, we are providing them with invaluable tools that will serve them a lifetime. Bilingualism not only benefits the brain, but it facilitates the learning of a third language; it opens the door to many more job opportunities; and, I believe it helps children grow up to be caring and empathetic humans, able to listen to and learn from points of view different from their own.

I would also strongly encourage parents to find a network of support through neighbors, friends, family, the community, and blogs and other on-line groups. I blog about my family’s adventures in bilingual parenting on Españolita…¡Sobre la Marcha! The blog has a list of resources for bilingual families. We can’t do this alone!

Keila: There are a ton of resources online! I love www.spanglishbaby.com it is great to get any family started in the process. It has tips not only for teaching Spanish but any language. I also encourage parents to make it a point to only speak that language (that you want to teach your children) at all times. I know this can be a difficult one when a family is out of the home; however, it has been a crucial point for us to create consistency for our son. They will learn English from everyone else! Also, finding a local group that speaks the language can help.

We share our bilingual journey on our blog. ☺www.mommyinmilwaukee.com

Melissa: Here are some ideas that have helped us out a lot:

  1. Total immersion pre-school. My two-and-a-half year old started a total immersion Armenian pre-school this past summer. Even though some may think two is too young for school (I did), I took into consideration the fact that 82% of a child’s brain is developed by age 3.
  2. Books. Pointing out pictures and introducing new words is a great way to learn a language, and books truly help make it easier. Through Amazon, I was even able to find books that mixed Armenian with English, making it easier for me to read and for my daughter to understand.
  3. Conversations anytime. I try to have as many conversations – about anything and at anytime – in Armenian mostly when it’s just me and my daughters. If it’s a concept that my toddler doesn’t seem to understand, I repeat it in both Armenian and English, but then switch back to Armenian. I read a stat recently that a child needs exposure to a second language at least 20 hours a week for it to ‘set in,’ so these dialogues are critical.
  4. Music & Videos. When my first daughter was born, I bought a CD of Armenian children’s songs. That disc has literally not left my car’s CD player since then – and it’s been more than two-and-a-half years. She can recite all the words, sing along and even knows the Armenian alphabet. We also watch a huge variety of videos, ranging from Peppa Pig in Spanish (she absolutely loves it and asks me for “Peppa in Espanol, Mama!”) and Armenian music videos to French cooking lessons. I’m not sure how much of it she’s understanding, but just hearing the different sounds, intonations, etc. is valuable.

Teaching your children multiple languages is absolutely awesome. And while it hasn’t been 100% easy for us, I do believe that it’s totally doable with a little extra work. The end result will be so worth it – and it’s a gift that will last your kids a lifetime.

A big thank you to Audrey, Keila and Melissa for sharing their bilingual parenting journey! Be sure to check out Audrey’s blog Españolita…¡Sobre la Marcha! and Keila’s blog Mommy in Milwaukee  as well as find out about Melissa’s latest multilingual adventures on her Instagram MelissaMillergram.

Cheers to bilingualism and multilingualism! — Gladys

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Bilingual Toddlers Are Mental Jugglers

bilingual-collageDuring my pregnancy, my husband and I agreed that we would speak two languages to our little one. Naturally this was a given as we both already spoke Spanish and English at home. But fast forward to my now 2-year-olds vocabulary and let me just say that it has been such a challenge for us to teach her both. The hubby and I noticed that we tend to communicate better with each other in English and therefore speak more English than Spanish at home. Not sure how this happened but we caught it and are trying to get back on track.

Sure – we want our daughter to speak, read and write in both languages. But it’s definitely easier said than done! I mean it’s hard enough to teach our 2 year old daughter English let alone a second language. Please tell me we are not the only ones experiencing this?!  But never the less, we both agreed that two languages would help our daughter with her brain development and also become a good multitasker. This isn’t just our theory though. Apparently, this was confirmed in a study made by Pennsylvania State University. This study mentions that having the ability to easily switch between different structures, also known as “Mental Juggling,” allows bilinguals to be good multitaskers. Wow – who knew we are teaching our daughter to become a mental juggler?!

It’s definitely a challenge for us but it’s an important one to take on. So for now we will continue to push forward on a daily basis and speak both languages. I’ve come to find a few solutions on how to teach Mia both Spanish and English over these past few months. Hope some of these work for you!

 

  • Bi-lingual books: Having the option of switching from one language to another seems to be an effective way to continue teaching both languages in our home.
  • Bi-lingual flash cards: I like mixing up the English and Spanish flash cards so that Mia can figure out in her mind what the object is in either language.
  • Spanish kid movies/ TV shows: If we’ve caught ourselves talking more in English we’ll have our little one watch for example Finding Nemo in Spanish. She loves singing Dory’s part “Nadaremos, Nadaremos En El Mar.” Whoever invented Language options on DVDs is a genius! There are also TV shows such as Plaza Sesamo, Dora La Exploradora or even Sesame Street that teach them both languages. These TV shows are always in our DVR.
  • Word of the day: Pick a word of the day and print out a picture of it for Mia to color. Repeat the word in English and Spanish while she colors it as well as mention it throughout the day. Note: The internet is full of free spanish coloring pages. Here’s a link to a simple one we’ve used. Alphabet Coloring Pages by Mrprintables.com
  • Youtube Spanish/ English Videos: I like having Mia watch educational kid songs in both languages. Youtube has a great selection from teaching them colors and numbers to rhymes and riddles.
  • Visit Family/friends: We are fortunate that both of our immediate families/close friends speak both languages and are driving distance from us. Having them speak both languages to our little one helps contribute to her “mental juggling” skills.

By the way, Mia’s first word at 9 months was agua (water) followed by the word fan so we must be doing something right, right? Ok – I’m trying to give ourselves some credit here (insert burst of laughter).

Cheers to brain development!