How to raise bilingual children
Subtitle: How to curse your kids out in Walmart in a way that no one will call Child Protective Services
Today’s entry idea came to me from a former student of mine who asked this question legitimately and I gave her pretty much the answer I am giving here. I am by no means an expert of languages, but I am a parent and a teacher and my kids do speak two languages so I guess I kinda know what I am talking about. So, here you go...
Step 1: Select your language. As you consider this let me make some suggestions. Don’t pick a language because you think your kid speaking it will sound cool or make you feel cool. Take Klingon for example. I am a nerd, but some of these nerd blogs I read where parents are teaching their kid Klingon or Elven (is that the word?) I am thinking, really, what part of you actually thought that was a good idea?!? Food for thought, China practically owns the world, so that is a good one to consider. Spanish, my language of choice, is also one of the most spoken languages in the world, but there are other options that are equally as good. Take sign language. Sign language interpreters make like $60+ an hour. Be greedy, make sure you pick something useful. These small humans will be selecting your nursing home.
Step 2: Once you have chosen said language then you need to research. Make sure you can either speak it to your child or can find a good program to do so. Please. For me and every other bilingual person on this planet. And for the love of Pete PLEASE watch an episode of “King of the Hill” where Peggy is “teaching Spanish” before you open your big mouth. A little part of me dies inside every time I hear someone speak like that.
Step 3: Learn some clever commands first. The easiest way to teach your child your new tongue is to scream at them in it. It also aids in Step 2, your accent. The more I yell “No toques” and “Vengan ahora” the more authentic I sound. It also will make the other speakers of this chosen language sympathize with you while you screaming at your children.
Step 3A: Just make sure that these commands don’t involve swear words. I made this mistake and I believe my son knew every swear word from the Iberian Peninsula before he knew any in English. And while this may seem cute at the time just wait. Your child will whip out that baddie and before you know it people not of your nationality will be giving you that look. You know that look. The ‘why did they allow you to breed look.’
Step 4: Have a clue. This is a learning process, not an instant I’m a cool parent fix. Just in case you weren’t aware, here is a list of things that will make you look like a douche bag if you choose to do them during this process.
- Labeling everything in your house in language two while your kid is still a baby. Dude, he/she can’t read. So, when I come over, I am assuming those things are for you. And that you are making this crap up. Because you probably are.
- Telling people “My child is bilingual” when he/she is also a baby or a very small toddler. When your kids is still babbling incoherently, I find it hard to believe that they are truly bilingual or lingual at all for that matter.
- When caught yelling at children in language and someone asks about it, just say “Oh yeah, they speak X, gets their attention you know.” When you answer with ANYTHING else, well, you sound like a douche bag.
- And never, ever, ever refer to your child as “my bilingual son/daughter” ever. In an email, a blog, a posting, whatever. If you do not see how snobby and idiotic this makes you look you are probably reading the wrong blog.
Step 5: Enjoy it. Like everything else in your child’s life, it should be fun. If you are spending every waking moment trying to make this happen it is not going to. Or you are not going to like the result. Some days my kids will NOT speak Spanish. That’s ok. Other days they refuse to listen to a thing in English. That is ok too. Chill out. And if you can’t, remember that Spanish wine I mentioned in entry #1. Might be time to stock up if you haven’t done so already.