Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Dual Language Learning: How We Do It, Part 2

Several months ago I published the first part of this post, highlighting two strategies that work for us as we raise our daughters to speak and learn in two languages.  Finally, I give you the remaining three strategies.  And, I include links to additional resources I have located in my explorations of the blogosphere.

Image courtesy of AISD.

3 More Strategies for Raising Dual Language Learners
Enlist the help of language speaking family members and friends.

As I mention in my previous post on this topic, we designate the homes of Spanish speaking family members as Spanish only zones.  My husband’s entire family speaks Spanish, and their help with reinforcing the Spanish learned at home and at school is invaluable.  While my children do occasionally speak English with their cousins and uncles, they have also learned that it is impolite to not include their grandparents in the conversation.  Therefore, Spanish is the main language at our family gatherings.

We also interact socially with a number of other families that speak Spanish to varying degrees.  Sometimes, only the adults speak Spanish; sometimes the entire family does.  Either way, our children understand that Spanish is a part of our social life and integral to particular cultural events, such as quinceñera celebrations and certain wedding traditions.

Listen to and watch media in the language.

Because we live in Houston and are teaching Spanish, this is easier for us than it might be for others, although satellite television offers more and more programming in other languages.  We can access network programs from Spanish channels, and we can tune to dozens of radio stations with music and shows in Spanish.  However, we rarely do either because the programming is often inappropriate for children.  Instead, our daughters will on occasion watch pre-selected movies from DVDs that we own with a Spanish language audio track.  When they watch children’s programs on cable television, we will switch the audio through the cable menu to Spanish; this option is increasingly available on network channels also.  We have discovered that a Spanish audio track is available more often than not.

Of course, this means our children rarely attend or watch movies when they are released to theaters.  However, since this was never a regular habit for them, they don’t miss it.  These days, movies are released on DVD and shown on television a few months after their theatrical release, so our daughters never have to wait long to see something they are interested in. 

We also listen to select Spanish language music from our home collection, including a number of children’s Spanish language CDs that we have acquired over the years.  When our collection of children’s music in Spanish was small, I would bring home additional CDs from the library.  Although we have not checked out DVDs from the library, I am sure most of the children’s offerings also include Spanish and French audio tracks.

In her post about raising bilingual children, Tallulah at Bilingual Babes includes both music and television in her top 5 tips.  (Read her other tips here.)

Read children’s books in the language or in both languages.

We do utilize the Spanish language and bilingual collections of children’s books at our local library quite extensively.  We are also able to do on-line library catalog searches for books not available at our local branch but owned by other libraries within the same system.  I am able to request the movement of individual Spanish language children’s books from other library branches to ours.  Also, I can pre-request new books that are already on order, so we can check them out as soon as they are ready to be shelved.

When my oldest daughter was a toddler, we attended a Spanish language story time at a library not far from our home.  If you find one in the language you are teaching, I urge you to take advantage of it.  Or, consider suggesting one at your local library.  The branch we patronize has two weekly story times in Vietnamese; your request may be more useful to other patrons than you think.  My youngest daughter and I attend story time in English, but I always go over some of the vocabulary and theme words with her afterwards, to be sure she knows the concepts in Spanish also.

We also buy books that are bilingual or Spanish only, but the bulk of what we read comes from the library.  I have recently learned about a digital library based in Mexico, where thousands of full color children’s books are available for reading on-line; I am sure there are similar projects in many other countries as well.

Leanna’s post at All Done Monkey about finding books in Spanish contains a number of other suggestions; read her ideas here.

Bilingual ability is important beyond potential job opportunities; language fluency opens up other cultures in ways monolingualism never will.  Globalization is and will even more so be a way of life for our children.  Speaking another language is no longer just an asset; it is a necessary and indispensible skill.

More articles about raising children who speak more than one language:

5 Myths about Bilingual Children” at All Done Monkey (from Kid World Citizen)

29 Tips for Raising Bilingual Kids” at In Culture Parent

Next week, I’ll be blogging about our plans for Lent!

Linked with: Catholic Bloggers Network, Worldwide Culture Swappers, Say It Two Ways Thursdays

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  1. Thank you for linking up with Say It Two Ways Thursdays at! Great advice!

  2. Such great tips. I really want my children to grow up bilingual but I'm finding it a real struggle, especially since my husband and I are both native English speakers.

    1. It IS a struggle, even for native speakers of the language you wish to teach. I do hope you continue your efforts, as the rewards are enormous!

  3. Great ideas! Thanks for including our posts and for linking up to the Culture Swapper!


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