We live in Israel, and I am from Mexico, my husband speaks only Hebrew with our 3-year-old boy, and I speak only Spanish, from my side he does not hear a Hebrew word. We were just in Mexico and his Spanish is now till the moon – I am so glad that he developed so well. Now when he talks to me, he does it in Spanish and when he talks to his father it is in Hebrew which is great for me. Now the question is: what do you think should I do when other people or children, Hebrew speakers, are around? Should I speak Hebrew to him? Only in order to create a connection with him and the others? Because what I have been doing is speaking Spanish to him, and if the others need to know, I translate it, but to him it is always and only Spanish. I am afraid this situation will affect somehow the interaction with the others.
Thank you for your time, I appreciate your answer
Thank you very much for writing to us here at Multilngual Parenting. First of all, I would like to congratulate you for your efforts in raising your little boy with his two heritage languages. It sounds like you are already reaping the benefits of your hard work and it feels wonderful, doesn’t it?
With respect to your question, I am glad you asked because it’s an important one! Raising our children bilingually should not create a barrier to their social interactions with others in the community language. Bilingualism should enhance our children’s lives, right? That said, I think that you are thinking along the right lines. You have evidently established a clear pattern of OPOL (one parent one language) in your home and your child is responding positively to your family language plan. So now, if you feel it is necessary to deviate from the OPOL at times when other Hebrew children or adults are in his presence, and where you feel it would be important for him to create a linguistic and social connection with these persons, then yes, by all means, speak to him in Hebrew at this time. If at other times you judge that the situation does not require for the other Hebrew persons present to understand what you are saying to your son, then you can continue to speak Spanish with him. Speaking the minority language (Spanish in your case as you live in Israel) in a variety of contexts is one of the keys to raising multilingual children. So don’t give up the Spanish entirely in public. Now it will be up to you to strike a careful balance between when to speak Spanish or Hebrew in public, especially as your son grows and has increasing social interactions, but I get the feeling that you will do just fine!
Buena suerte en este desafio! And don’t hesitate to ask more questions. We’d love to continue this exchange with you.