I am originally from Barcelona, my first languages are Spanish and Catalan. My husband is from the Midwest and does not understand Spanish or Catalan. Our household is 100% English, I work in 100% English, and 80% of my friends and social life is in English. It was even difficult for me to speak in Spanish to my baby bump/baby.
But I was convinced I wanted to speak in Spanish to my daughter, growing bilingual is an incredible gift and I had to put the effort in from the beginning. So I did. Here are my top tips for bilingual families like ours:
- Use nicknames and names to call your baby that remind you of your language (Sofia is Spanish, but I also call her other words like pequenita, bonita, guapa... which make my Spanish come out easier).
- Even though my husband does not speak Spanish, he is learning basic words that we all use on a daily basis like water (agua), mas (more), comer (eat), hola (hello)... even sentences like "buenos dias" (good morning), "hasta luego" (see you later), numbers & colors... So although our whole family speaks in English, basic words she is starting to learn are purely in Spanish.
- Music, toys and TV in Spanish: She does not watch TV yet, but the songs I sing or play for her, and the toys she has, are all in Spanish, which not only teach her, but also remind ME of speaking in Spanish. And I plan to have her watch Spanish speaking cartoons when she starts watching TV.
- Meet your Spanish speaking friends more often + especially those with babies: I have a few friends from Spain in LA, and luckily, a few are moms of little ones too! So those play dates are extra important! The babies will hear us talk in Spanish and they can grow up speaking in Spanish between themselves too. If you don't have friends with babies that speak your mother language: find them!
- Spanish nanny/help: Sofia still does not have a nanny, but if/when I ever get one I know I want her to be Spanish speaking too. My parents are in another country and she has no family in town, so the only person speaking to her in Spanish on a regular basis is me. Having someone else in her life, regularly speak in Spanish is SO important.
When she grows a bit:
- School: I honestly don't know if Sofia will be able to go to a Spanish speaking school in LA, I have yet to do my research on that matter, plus Spanish from South America is so different to the one in Europe, but I would LOVE to find a school where they have Spanish as a first or second language, from the young days, OR, I will enroll her to an after-school activity where she can use her Spanish with others.
- Summer abroad: Of course, every time we visit my family in Spain everyone talks to her in Spanish or Catalan, and we go every year, so I hope she also gets to practice every time we go, and, when she is a bit older I would love for us to go and have her join a summer camp for a few weeks, so she is fully immersed with family and new friends/different environment.