The true benefits & drawbacks of raising bilingual kids
I was 8 years old when my family came to the United States. My Cuban dad and Russian mom were hoping for a new life and, eventually, I know that we got it. But it wasn't easy. Those first couple of years were really, really difficult for me. School was hard and, when we first arrived in Miami, I didn't know much English above the color "orange" and some basic numbers. I don't even think my Spanish was good enough to survive in this country. That's when I truly learned the power of being bilingual.
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Now that I am "all grown up", for lack of a better term, I don't know what to make of my schooling. There have been studies released about how being bilingual is one of the best things that can happen to a kid once he or she grows up but, at the same time, there have also been studies about how Latino kids start off months behind their completely Americanized peers but then things balance out later on.
So what's the right answer when it comes to parenting? Teaching your child Spanish only when they're little isn't necessarily the best idea if it's going to put them behind in school but neither is denying their Latin roots since the language skills come very landy later on in life. Personally, I am hoping that there is some sort of balance. Learning a new language (or a new skill, for that matter) is not the easiest thing to do, but it is something that has been ingrained in me ever since I can remember. And I have to thank my abuelita for that.
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One of the things I remember about my childhood is learning about my grandmother being a professor of Mathematics and my dad subsequently getting a degree in engineering. When I was young, being a good student was really important. In fact, being so-called smart always felt like it was one of my best attributes. I never missed an opportunity to read a new book or try something new, because it felt like it was always going to teach me something.
Maybe it's not really related to me being bilingual, but learning a new skill (and new language) is something that was ingrained in me as a child. The weird thing, for me, is that it statistically it is both good and bad. But that's how life is, isn't it? Everything, I find, is good and bad--and I am forever grateful for both the positive and negative in my life. I have learned happy things and sad things and, in the end, all that matters is family. And, well, if you can speak a couple languages, well, that helps too.
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