By Genoveva Rodríguez-Castañeda
"Our goal at Esperantza is to allow our clients to develop a trusting relationship with our tutors, who are happy to welcome you into their homes and classrooms. We ensure that our tutors will teach you Spanish that is packed with the cultural meaning of our language".
Whether you want to open new opportunities for your child or want to keep them connected to your family roots, the hard work of raising bilingual or multilingual kids is worth it. Speaking more than one language is related to building richer social networks, higher cognitive skills, and a deeper understanding of cultural differences. With all the tangible and less straightforward advantages of being bilingual from a young age, supporting your child to become bilingual may be hard at times, but there are multiple long term gains.
Look at the numbers, given the rapid growth of the hispanic population in the US, the future of US culture is already a melting pot of English and Spanish ingredients. Today, one of four students has at least one immigrant parent (Zong, Batalova, & Hallock, 2018), and Spanish is present in 21% of American households. Don't believe me? Pay attention to content for kids streamed on Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Disney. Introducing Spanish words in dialogues is the norm in popular shows. Take the Disney movie Coco, featuring the traditions of Día de Los Muertos and observed in many Mexican American households. Remember how the recent blockbuster "Encanto" got your kids mumbling and humming a mix of Spanish and English words such as "Abuela gets the umbrella" and moving to rythms that are steeped in Colombian culture.
As you can see, the integration of Spanish is becoming part of our new reality regardless of how much Spanish you and your family know. One of the benefits of having our kids learn Spanish now is that the learning process gives them a rich context to understand an emerging cultural reality of their country.
For those who grew up with the culture but did not learn Spanish, remember that it is never too late to learn. While popular apps such as Duolingo are a great tool to break the ice and get started, Esperantza provides a chance for you and your kids to embrace your roots through an immersive learning method. By immersive I mean, having conversations about common interests and cultural context of words and gestures with our Spanish tutors. Such approach to learning will allow you and your family to feel confident with the language. Many first and second generation hispanics will confirm that once they get interested in stories and immersed in adventures with their Latin American family members, they start to yearn to speak and understand Spanish, and add that cultural richness to their lives.
Even if you don't do it for the cultural richness, do it for the cognitive and academic benefits for your children. There is growing evidence of the benefits you can provide to your child by supporting their bilingualism. For example, studies found that bilingual college students achieved higher levels of education than monolingual children of immigrants (Fry and Lowell 2003). Bilingualism allows people to have more dense social networks (Rumbaut, 2014). It also allows the brain to develop higher-level skills (Byalstock et al. 2009, Antoniou 2019), making any level of learning another language a win-win for you and your family.
There is no shorthand way to ensure your kids will remain bilingual. Promoting Spanish learning among our kids where there is a socioeconomic stigma to speaking a language is not easy. I was very determined to speak only Spanish to my son. I celebrated his first 200 words in Spanish and still enjoy hearing his Spanish words through the videos I took when he was a 4 year old. However, my son transitioned from a Spanish-only language to a refusal to speak Spanish at home as soon as he entered Elementary. I have tried to hang on to our bilingual friendships, I got him on a Spanish Immersion program at the public school and nothing changed his refusal to speak Spanish.
Esperantza is dedicated to teaching languages favoring conversation over grammar. Because we see that we learn better when we are having fun. Think speaking about favorite shows or stories about Latin American culture, such as learning what a piñata is and discussing popular books, such as Harry Potter, Dog Man, or Cape (the league of secret heroes) if you are young. Or the origin of Latin American music, drinks, food and traditions if you are an adult.
If you think that this is the support you want to give your kids in their Spanish language journey, or if it sounds like a fun way for you to improve your Spanish book classes or want to talk more about our program send us a message at (206) 705-3018 or write to us at email@example.com
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Antoniou, M., 2019. The advantages of bilingualism debate. Annual Review of Linguistics, 5, pp.395-415.
Bialystok, E., Craik, F.I., Green, D.W. and Gollan, T.H., 2009. Bilingual minds. Psychological science in the public interest, 10(3), pp.89-129.
Fry, R. and Lowell, B.L., 2003. The value of bilingualism in the US labor market. ILR Review, 57(1), pp.128-140.
Rumbaut, R.G., 2014. English plus: Exploring the socioeconomic benefits of bilingualism in southern Californiat.
Zong, J., Batalova, J. and Hallock, J., 2018. Frequently requested statistics on immigrants and immigration in the United States.