Raising Multilingual? 4- Mothers Share their Journey

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by Smart Coos

As more benefits of being multilingual are being discovered, more and more parents are choosing to teach their children multiple languages. Children who know more than one language tend to be better at tasks involving memory and inhibitory control. Studies have even shown that learning another language can physically change the brain and prevent against neurological conditions later in life.

Nichole Adams’ two children speak French, Spanish, Mandarin and English.

For Luz Claudio, the benefits of being bilingual extend past those reasons. When asked why she decided to teach her daughter Spanish alongside English, she stated, “It is important to us that our daughter speak the language of her grandparents. When we go visit family in Puerto Rico, it is very important to us that she is able to communicate fully with them and that she has a clear grounding in her culture. I think that this gives her a strong sense of identity.”

Allison Russo decided to teach her children Spanish, also, despite the fact that she and her husband are not native speakers. She saw the importance of having her children being able to communicate with the growing Spanish-speaking population in their community. She said that the process of having her children learn Spanish posed “no real issues, though it makes helping them with homework a little more difficult.”

Nichole Flores has two children that are studying French, Spanish, Mandarin and English. She enumerates numerous reasons for choosing to raise her children as multilingual. “I am a licensed psychologist and believe that being exposed to languages so young supports brain development and also imbeds an appreciation of multiculturalism. In addition, I think giving my children the gift of language is an investment in their future. It will make them more marketable as adults and will allow them to have the entire world as a potential job market.”

Nichole Adams and her two children. As a licensed psychologist she believes that exposure to languages at a young age supports brain development and also embeds an appreciation of multiculturalism.
Nichole Adams and her two children. As a licensed psychologist she believes that exposure to languages at a young age supports brain development and also embeds an appreciation of multiculturalism.

But, as a single mother, she also understands the sacrifices and resources that are needed to raise children who are learning multiple languages. “My kids have very long school days, starting at about 8am and ending at about 6pm.” Despite this, she feels that raising multilingual children is totally worth it. “I feel very responsible in the duty to raise a global citizen and I believe that starting with multiple languages is a step in the right direction.”

Lyndsay Wright, who herself has a rich language background which includes Spanish, German, Italian, and American Sign Language, is teaching her children French and English while they study in a Spanish-only school. She knows the difficulties of encouraging her children to learn languages in which she and her husband are not fluent. She encourages parents to find native speakers to help children “understand the language more intimately” than they would with non-native speakers. She also finds that using books are a great way to immerse your children in the literature and vocabulary of the language. She urges parents to effectively use technology to connect their child to the language that they are learning.

The biggest challenges she points out are external. “This is probably the biggest challenge, or at least the most difficult pill to swallow: Some of my family is
not at all supportive of my quest to have my children understand and be able to communicate in French from birth.” However, she found a way to avoid the criticism by choosing to speak in English with her children in front of certain friends and family members.

Wright understands the difficulties that come along with having children that are fluent in languages in which she and her husband are not, including having the
children plot together. To avoid this, she and her husband are closely involved in the language learning process and work to study the foreign vocabulary also, making learning a fun and family activity. And for the words that they don’t know? They communicate with their children and ask them to demonstrate what the words
mean, making the learning process interactive.

Every parent with bilingual or multilingual children understands the challenges that they will face but the difficulties are worth it. Wright says it best, “Just do it. Giving your child the gift of speaking more than one language is phenomenal. Being bilingual or multilingual will open so many doors in your child’s future, and some of them will be doors that we can’t even imagine existing today.”

Contributed to by Aarushi Sharma

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