Today marks 25 years to the day that my Spanish teacher, Mr. Noville ushered me into the realm of the love of foreign language learning. Soon thereafter, Ms. Althea Lewis further groomed my passion and well, the rest is history!
As the proud mother of two boys- ages 18 months and the other, a boisterous 4-year-old- I chose the path of promoting bilingualism at home. How did I do this? Well, I chose the only method which comes naturally for us mommies with active, head-strong, determined/resilient toddlers – I TALK! TALK! TALK!
The best method that I adapted was the One-Parent –One-Language model (O.P.O.L) where one parent speaks to their child in their native tongue while the other speaks to them in the foreign language.
Don’t quite get how it works?
Well, think of yourself entering the classroom of the Math teacher and the Art teacher – 1 is strict and logical while the other allows you to freely express yourself and praises abstract thought and possibility. As a student, you naturally learn to adapt to each teacher/class setting and act accordingly. With this in mind, this is how the brain of the bilingual child operates – it adapts naturally to the language it associates with each parent, and trust me, I see it work all the time at home! (P.s. Google says the approach has a 75% success rating!)
Nonetheless, Google aside, if we are to truly expect any measure of real success, I’ll mention to you as I do to my students at school – you need to be consistent! You see, (and I too sometimes am guilty of this) when we fluctuate between languages (specifically for the parent who practices the OPOL approach) we tend to confuse the child (remember, he/she has already associated one particular sound system to each parent).
But, question! What if you wish to foster bilingualism at home but do not possess the gift of speaking a foreign language?
To you I give this piece of advice – Google! Google is a learning tool that is very much applicable in “light” instances such as these. Also possible is to search for a YouTube tutorial and adapt a method that best works for you. You can also give some of these a try:
Google simple phrases in Spanish and yes, you can also google how to pronounce them.
Try labelling basic everyday items such as the fridge/door/hot stove with Spanish flashcards.
Maybe sing “Simple songs in Spanish” with the captions on?
Celebrate a Spanish festival or what about trying to cook that overpriced arepa at home?
In essence, make language learning time and family time! Allow your child to build his/her comfort and confidence with the language.
So go ahead, do your research and start fostering the love of foreign language learning at home.
Terri Anderson (M.A., B.A. Spanish)