It is with joy I welcome today’s guest poster, Diana Sampedro, a Spanish mother and language English-teacher who is raising her daughter to become bilingual in Spanish and English, which is not Diane’s native langauge. She has written a book about her experience, giving advice to other parents who want to follow her example and pass on a non-native language to their children. Her book is in Spanish and it is called Baby English: Cómo conseguir que tu hijo sea bilingüe (soon also available in a Kindle version)
You can get in touch with Diana, find out more about her book and other activities and enter giveaways via her Facebook page.
Without further ado, here is Diana’s story!
Hello everyone, I am so excited to share with you my story. Thank you Rita!
Nowadays people travel more than ever before and we live in more multicultural environments than some years ago. I love languages and I want to share with you my non-native bilingual story.
My name is Diana, I am Spanish mum of a 6-year-old girl, her dad is also Spanish, and we live in Spain I love languages, I speak English so I decided to raise my kid bilingual, even though not being a native English-speaker myself.
My English-learning started at school, when I was 12. At college (I have a Bachelor in Economics) I always tried to meet English speakers in Spain to practice languages. I attended Escuela de Idiomas and after college I went to the US for a year. I studied Economics at Amherst University of Massachusetts and taught Spanish to freshmen. After that I have lived in England for one year and six months a couple of times. In Spain I have learnt a lot of English because I have met up with people interested in speaking the language. I read, watch TV and films in English and speak it with my daughter. Nowadays I work as an English teacher.
Passing on English as a non-native language to my daughter
I have always loved languages and the way they allow us to communicate, and the culture that goes with them. Babies and kids repeat whatever you tell them, so I thought, why not try to give my daughter the chance to learn two languages in a natural, effortless way? Since I had the motivation, I was able to find the tools I needed back then and the ones I could not find, I created myself.
When I got pregnant, I was living in the UK. I used to attend mumtobe groups and playgroups and met some multilingual families. I became familiar with babies’ English vocabulary and was amazed to see that some little kids could communicate in more than one language with their parents. In my country we mainly speak Spanish, so it is not that common to find those cases.
I decided to speak English to my daughter – I wanted to give to her a language gift. She was born in Spain, but when she was still in my belly I sang lullabies and talked to her in English, just to get us used to it. This is really important when you talk to your child in a non-native language – you both need time to get comfortable, and guess what, you will!
Nowadays everybody talks about bilingualism. A good way to understand how your kid or a student feels when he or she comes to a new language is when you yourself were in that situation. You are aware of the difficulties and challenges that you come across when learning a new language. And you know the excitement about every milestone!
Bilingualism has many benefits, but I would like to mention how it makes travelling and living in another country easier if you are able to speak more than your native language. You have a better and deeper access to other cultures, other interesting ways of living and thinking. It also offers you the chance to see reality from a different perspective, and I guess that can have a good impact in the way you interact with the world. It gives you an open approach, a curiosity, a connection with your feelings in a wider way.
One day I told myself, why not write a book about my experience of raising my daughter in a non-native language? This could be the kind of book I was looking for before starting this bilingual project. You can find some very good books about bilingualism, but it was hard to find a book that actually helps couples who are not native speakers in one of the languages they want to teach their kids. For instance, I needed to know how to say, “Mete la camiseta por dentro”, that is “Tuck your Tshirt in” or “Te echo una carrera”, “I’ll race you”.
This book is aimed for Spanish speakers who want their kids to be bilingual or very fluent in both Spanish and English. It also suits English speakers who want to find useful vocabulary to speak Spanish to their kids.
With a child, there are many situations with different contexts in a day. In the book you will find all these useful phrases, songs, games, both in English and Spanish and with an audio to check the right pronunciation. There are rhymes, games, tricks to improve your English for Spanish speakers, and information on the language development of a bilingual kid. There is also a chapter about reading in English and how to help children get used to the English sounds.
Speaking with your child in a language which is not your native one is possible, your kid learns from you by copying and it is a special bond between the two of you. One thing I learned myself is that at the end of the day the main and most beautiful thing related to your children and you is to connect with them, to feel close and loved, through words (languages) and actions.
Thank you, Diane!