I am raising three bilingual English-Spanish boys and I admit, it’s not easy.
I was raised bilingual, my parents are both Panamanians, and we spoke Spanish exclusively in my house. I didn’t think about this until I was 9 or 10, when I realized I was one of the few kids at my school that spoke Spanish. It was at that point that I began hating speaking Spanish. It wasn’t until I was 14 or so that I realized this was a good skill to have.
None of my cousins spoke Spanish. In fact, my mother’s sisters were all critical of her talking to us in Spanish, making us write in Spanish, teaching us. They didn’t see the utility of it.
It isn’t a skill you think about much unless you don’t have it and given that the world is shrinking and Spanish is all around us, it would be lame of me not to pass the skill to my three boys.
But raising bilingual kids isn’t easy. I’m lucky I have a wife that fully supports the effort. (They say you need one parent that speaks the second language exclusively, which is my job.)
To be successful, you have to be more than a little obsessive. You have to look for creative ways to expose your kids to the second language. You have to be willing to let your kids be unhappy with you when you tell them they’re watching TV in Spanish. And you have to take your inspiration to continue your efforts from wherever you get it.
My inspiration comes from the other parents who ask me how I do it. Especially, parents whose first language is Spanish and whose kids don’t speak. They often tell me they can’t keep their kids speaking Spanish all the time at home (which is nearly impossible but it’s not worth being dogmatic about).
My inspiration comes from watching my boys interact with kids their age when we’re traveling. But most of all, my inspiration comes from hearing my kids speak in Spanish with their grandparents.