Homemade Bilingualism

Homemade Bilingualism

Last week, I read an article on ABC on Homemade bilingualism called Bilingüismo Casero: ¿deben los padres hablar en inglés a sus hijos? I saw this article on LinkedIn with a comment in the direction of “Great, more Spanglish”.

In this article, I would like to give my two cents on the topic.

Have Fun

A first point, mentioned in the article, is that children will learn English when having fun. I believe this is true, they will not notice that they are learning English, because they don’t care about the learning part. For them, it would all be about understanding, and thus, communication. To this goal, the article states that the work of learning the language should continue at home and I fully agree with this. The question is how.

Immersion at Home

I have mentioned, in numerous articles, that I believe immersion is fundamental for learning languages. Watching TV in English, reading books, listening to the radio: they are precious when it comes to obtaining information of the language. To that end, televisions sets should always transmit TV programs in English, whether it is The Big Bang Theory, Paw Patrol (La Patrulla Canina) or Dora the Explorer.

Bilingualism in Families

Now, does the above mean that I believe Spanish parents should speak English with their children. It depends. How good is your English and how consistent will you be?

As a foreigner in Spain, I became interested in the concept of the bilingual family and how to maintain one and one of the most important things I found is regarding constancy. This means that each parent should choose a langue and stick with it. Meaning, I will speak Frisian, always, and my wife Spanish, always (with the kids). This way, they, the kids, will eventually separate the two languages and speak each with a parent, without mixing them.

Switching Languages

And this is a point the article mentions, children giving colors in English while speaking Spanish. If we are not careful, children will believe that “blue” is the Spanish name for the color “azul”. If have heard anecdotes about children telling their parents some body parts hurt, using the English name for the body part in the Spanish sentence: “Mamá, me duele el leg”.

So, parents cannot and should not switch languages. It confuses the child.

This then also means that, if you as a parent, have a good command of the English language, I am all for you speaking English at home. Be aware, consistency is key here.

The Need of Perfection

In the article, the argument is that parents do not need a perfect control of the language in order to speak it with the children. There are arguments for and against this, I believe.

For

I am a strong believer that communication is the most important part of speaking a language. If you doubt this, you haven’t read my earlier posts. This means that, it is better for children to be able to communicate in some form than not at all. So yes, even if parents are not perfect in English, it is better to speak with them.

Then, I hear people say, and they are right, more Spanglish. Sure but… how do you think accents came to life? The English and Americans do not agree on large parts of vocabulary, either they have different words or words have completely different meanings. And… the English has large amounts of loan words anyway, a few more won’t hurt.

Against

It is easier to learn something from scratch than it is to correct something that has been incorrectly learned. Committing less mistakes when communicating, will make a person sound a lot better.

Spanglish will become more common and that can cause miscommunication more than we would like.

Anecdote

I always enjoy thinking about this story a friend of mine told me about her then 4 year old daughter. The daughter had spent a few weeks in the Basque Country. At some point, she was playing in a sandbox with her mother and a stranger walks by and says something. The little girl responds. Her mother doesn’t understand anything and asks the girl what had just happened. The 4 year old girl tells her mother that the lady had sked her how she was and she had responded.

For the girl, this was normal, but for the mother it was not. They live in Madrid and the girl had never received classes in the Basque language.

This anecdote shows me, how easy it can be for children to pick things up. It does not mean, however, that parents should start speaking English with their children just because. It might do more harm than good.

En la academia de inglés TJ English Golf creemos que cada uno tiene el derecho de comunicarse bien,
en un idioma extranjero.

Si desee aprender más o incluso le interesa aprender inglés jugando al golf, no dude en ponerse en contacto con nosotros. Hasta entonces:

Don’t forget to practice!