My first interview for the launch of this series is with Spanish mom Marta, whom I had the pleasure to meet at the Bilingual Zoo forum.
Marta’s bilingual journey as a ml@home family really inspired me. Today, I wish for you to discover her journey in her own words and find out her first-hand top tips that made a real difference in the success of the bilingual education of her three beautiful children.
¡ Muchas gracias, Marta!
Tell us a little bit about you, your family and the language strategy (OPOL, ml@h, Time & Place…) you use to rear your children bilingual.
My husband is German, I am Spanish and we live in Germany where our three children (now 3, 6 and 10 years old ) were born. They attend German schools/ kindergarten.
When our first son was born we started with an OPOL approach, I would always talk to my son in Spanish, my husband would talk to him in German. Since we are both fluent in both languages it was never a problem that everyone understood what was being said.
As my son grew up, our language strategy evolved to what we have now: I still talk to my kids always in Spanish, but Spanish has also evolved to our family language, so when we are all together we all speak Spanish. When my husband is alone with the kids he speaks sometimes German sometimes Spanish to them.
What are the 5 (or more) things you did that with hindsight have made a difference on your bilingual journey, and why do you think they had this positive effect?
- Always speaking in the ml: I have been very consistent in always speaking Spanish to my kids. Not only at home, but also in public and also when there were people around that did not speak Spanish. Indeed it is one of the first things I explain when I meet new people and I am with my kids, when I introduce myself, I immediately say I am from Spain and always speak Spanish to my kids. Or if I see someone looking at us on the playground because we speak another language I also explain it right away.
- Screen time in the ml: Up to this day my kids do not watch TV or movies in German, it is all Spanish, either DVDs I buy or streaming, but always in Spanish. I always thought there would come a day where they would ask for German TV, but it has not come so far. My son (now 10) says he would rather watch movies in Spanish than in German.
- Reading aloud: I love to read and I love children books, and I love reading aloud to my kids, so this is a important part of our daily life. I read aloud daily to all three of them, each one a different book. Even though my older son is a fluent reader and also reads on his own, I keep reading aloud to him (and we both enjoy it). My husband always jokes we have the biggest Spanish Children books library in the whole of Germany.
- Travel to the ml country: I go as often as possible to Spain with my kids. Since we have kids, we have given up holidays in other places and all our vacations are spent in Spain. We also welcome friends and family to stay at our place when they come to Germany, which brings more Spanish into our life
- Activities with other ml speaking families: I organize things for the Spanish speaking community of the city we live in, when my older was 1 I started with a friend a playgroup in Spanish, where we met once a week. We still have that group that I now attend with my youngest one. Now and then I do a Story hour in the library in our neighborhood where I tell stories for children in Spanish. I also organize (with other friends) activities for Spanish speaking families, like barbecues, forest walking tours and so on. I try that my kids see we are not the only Spanish speaking family in our city, there are a lot other families like us.
- Inform myself, online support: I read about bilingualism to find new ideas and approaches. Books but also blogs (like Amy’s or like Bilingual Monkeys ) and also forums like the Bilingual Zoo (which I would strongly recommend to any parent raising bilingual kids).
- Resources in the ml: I try to have as many resources as possible in Spanish around, besides all kind of books (comics, novels, non fiction books, activity books), I also have board games, music, audio books in Spanish. I also follow up Adams Beck’s (Bilingual Monkeys blog author) captive reading idea, and I have signs and notes posted around the house in Spanish. I also put my two older kids every day a note in Spanish on the lunch box they take to school.
What is the n°1 tip you would give to any bilingual family on this bumpy journey?
Do not give up. Stay consistent and be creative. It is a long way and not as easy as it looks from the outside but it is very much worth it.
Tell us about your blog
I have a blog in Spanish called Kikiricosas: http://kikiricosas.blogspot.com. I started it when my older one was 3 years old. I often looked at other mom’s blogs for inspiration on things to do with my son and I thought I could also blog what we did and maybe it could inspire other moms. So that’s how it started.
It is not a blog about bilingualism, but just about some of the things we do: books we read, games we play, crafts we do. I do post now and then about our bilingualism, but just like I do about the other parts of our life.