This mini-interview series has been quiet for far too long, and I am delighted to be able to bring it back to life with this new interview! Meet María, a Spaniard recently expatriated in the Middle East. Through a Facebook group we both belong to, I got to know María and her fascinating bilingual journey to raise her children bilingual as a non-native parent. Her story is unusual and deserves a couple of extra questions beyond my traditional top-tip questions 😉 Gracias María for sharing your story with us, and my hat off to you for your incredible efforts and perseverance!
Tell us a little bit about you, your family and the language strategy (OPOL, ml@h, Time & Place…) you use to rear your children bi/multilingual.
I believe raising children bilingual is a great goal and as a mum, or dad, can realize how your children are getting new skills through another language. I embarked on this adventure when my eldest was three years old. I started to expose him to BBC’s Listen and Play whilst he had breakfast or he was playing in his bedroom, therefore our language strategy was “Time and Place” but my thoughts were: “There has to be more information about it” so I found out about how to raise children bilingual on this podcast: “Crecer en inglés” and I listened to an interview of Diana Sampedro and I bought her book: “Baby English”. This moment was hard and great at the same time: new sentences for studying, new abilities and I took the plunge talking to my son in English. As a result, my language strategy became OPOL. When my daughter was born, our method was established so it had to work!! But it did not work all the time because of my tiredness, although she has been more exposed than my son, from scratch, and her skills have multiplied by a thousand! She picked up a lot of words and expressions when we were living in Spain and when we arrived here, her English was decent. In fact, my eldest had to pass an exam in a British school and he did it very well. Nowadays, both are enrolled in this school and their English skills are enhancing everyday.
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?
- When my eldest enjoyed afternoons with a native American teacher as Language Assistant and my son realized how important is to learn another language.
- Travelling abroad as much as possible. It reminds me when my son used to say in the airplane: “Mum, we have to speak English from now”.
- Improving their skills through songs and English TV.
- Mum speaks English as well.
- Living abroad. My eldest is able to realize how much effort I made for him and his result
What is the n°1 tip you would give to any bilingual family on this bumpy journey?
Do not hesitate! Try it!
What specific tip(s) could you give to other non-natives who would like to raise bilingual?
Do not pay attention to other families who do not raise children bilingual and go on! Use books, audios and TV, go abroad on holidays.
María, you have a unique experience as a non-native mum who raises her children bilingual and has now given the incredible opportunity to her children to live abroad in that minority language. As a result of this move, what have you changed in your way of raising bilingual at home, now that your children have the minority language all around? What tips would you give parents living this same experience?
I keep speaking in English with my daughter and my son, but right now he prefers to speak to me in Spanish from time to time. Our experience living abroad will only be one year, so I have hardly changed my mind on this matter. When we were in Spain at Christmas I thought our return was going to be worse due to Spanish language exposition, but I decided to keep my English with them so nothing changed in the school.
What challenges do you expect to encounter in raising bilingual at home, once you move back to Spain?
How to keep their English skills in Spain. Our country is not bilingual right now, so we will have to make an effort with them and maybe we would have to change them school.
Tell us about your blog.
My blog and podcast are a result of a Spanish mum who is non native, not an English teacher or bilingual. As a mum, I am making a lot of mistakes every day, in both languages and I know it, but I want to tell my story, our goals, their goals.
Maria is a Spanish mum of two children (seven and three years old) currently living in the Middle East. She is working as Tender Administrator in a construction company but is enjoying an unpaid leave, so she started making great strides this 2020: a new blog and podcast! You can find her blog, Bilingual being non native, at https://bilingualbeingnonnative.wordpress.com as well as her podcast at https://anchor.fm/maria2708/episodes/Lets-talk-about-audiobooks-ea5uuj. Follow her on Instagram @bilingualbeingnonnative.