As the mom of a first-grader who's growing up bilingual but goes to an all-English school, this is something that worries me tremendously. Until last year, when she entered kindergarten, my daughter Vanessa was exposed to Spanish the majority of her waking hours. Even though she attended preschool, it was only a few hours a day three times a week and the rest of the time she was home with her Spanish-speaking nanny and, later on, with her Spanish-speaking parents.
I wasn't too worried about her increased exposure to English (and decreased exposure to Spanish) during kinder because she didn't know how to read or write yet. But now that she does, I feel like I have to work overtime to keep Spanish alive at home.
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If you're raising bilingual kids and they're not lucky enough to go to a dual language immersion school, you might have the same worries. Fortunately, there are things you can do to make sure your kids continue to be bilingual. And today, I'm sharing the ones I've implemented in my own household.
1. Don't stop speaking Spanish to them. If you are the one who speaks Spanish at home, make sure you continue to interact with your children in that language--even if they want to speak English. If they refuse, gently remind them that Spanish is spoken at home and continue to respond in Spanish.
My daughter has only been back in school one week and she's already speaking a lot more English at home, especially to her little brother. I've found myself reminding her at least three times this week that he doesn't speak English yet.
2. Read to them (or ask them to read) in Spanish every night. This will vary depending on their age and their ability level. Reading is a great way for your child to expand his vocabulary in Spanish and there are tons of great children's books to choose from which are either bilingual or solely in Spanish.
Vanessa reads and writes in both languages, so we pretty much take turns reading one book in English and another one in Spanish every night. This is the first time I actually do this because, in the past, I only read to her in Spanish. But she needs to read in English for about 15 minutes every night and so this is how we're managing that too.
3. Take advantage of technology. From iPad apps to music, movies and online games, there are tons of ways for you to maintain Spanish alive at home using technology. The best part about this is that your kids will be having so much fun that they won't even realize they're actually improving their Spanish skills.
At home, Fridays are pizza/movie night. I allow Vanessa to choose the movie we're going to watch, but it has to be one with a Spanish track. For music, we use Pandora, with its endless options of Spanish music. Apps in Spanish abound and they're actually a lot of fun. Same for online games, which I actually use as rewards.
Hopefully, these tips will help you ensure continue to be bilingual even if they go to an all-English school.
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