Monolingual Mommy/Bilingual Baby

 If I could change something about my childhood, it would be that I did not grow up learning Spanish. My grandparents all spoke Spanish.  My father grew up speaking Spanish and is fluent in both English and Spanish. My parents made a conscious decision not to raise me and my siblings speaking Spanish. I believe this was because they wanted us to have a good command of the English language, and my father remembered the stigma that was associated with speaking Spanish in his youth.  I understand their decision and I appreciate them for wanting my  siblings and I to become strong in our English reading and writing skills.

 Still, I wish I was fully bilingual. Not that I haven’t tried to become fluent in Spanish. I took 3 years of high school Spanish, one semester in college, and post-college I attended 2 more years of Spanish evening classes at a community college. In law school I spent a summer living with a Mexican family, studying law in Mexico, and taking Spanish language classes. It’s my great frustration that despite all my efforts I can still only say that I am “conversant” in Spanish.

So, last year when Juan and I learned of a new program launching in our local public school district that would fully immerse the kindergarten through 5th grade students in Spanish, I was very interested. Diego was about to start kindergarten and on track to enroll in the same private catholic school that Nico and Erica attend. Juan and I had to make a decision to send him there or invest in our public school and put faith in this new program. We were on the fence because, honestly, our public school system does not have the best academic reputation, and we liked the small, family community and spiritual development our other kids were getting at their school

The day that we had to make the decision to send our seat deposit in for Diego at the private school, I was in San Francisco, attending a conference about the transitioning Mexican legal system. Prominent Mexican judges and attorneys were lecturing about their legal system, in Spanish. I was only one of a few attorneys who needed the aid of simultaneous translation.  That moment helped me to make the decision that Diego would attend the public school Spanish immersion program.

I have not regretted that decision. He is becoming bilingual and bi-literate. Soon he and Juan, who is a fluent Spanish speaker, will be able to talk about me without me fully comprehending what they are saying. Tonight, I am attending a special screening of the movie “Speaking in Tongues” at Diego’s school.  This film shows the benefits of dual language programs. It’s such an exciting concept.  I encourage anyone who is in the Pasadena area to attend this event.  And if you’re into “Twittering” please give this post a “tweet.”


4 thoughts on “Monolingual Mommy/Bilingual Baby

  1. Hi! Congrats on your decision to send your son to your local dual language program! You’re on the money! The doors it’ll open up for him are endless! I am living proof of that.

    Speaking in Tongues is incredibly well done and I think it serves as real proof of what multilingualism can do to and for our children. I hope you enjoy watching it and I hope it serves to convince those who still hang on to the old myths about speaking more than one language.

    Would love to hear more about your son’s experiences in school becoming bilingual and biliterate!

  2. Regina says:

    Hi Diana. I too have a family fully conversant in Spanish, including my Kids! And they DO talk about me in Spanish! The nerve!

    My father has a Masters in Language and actually was the host of the first Spanish children’s show on T.V. (sorta like Sesame Street, but not). He has a truly amazing knowledge of the many Spanish dialects.

    But, alas, my parents too made the decision not to teach us Spanish, for the same reasons as your parents. I wish I could pick it up, but I just don’t have the ear for it.

    Thanks for the story.

  3. Tracy López says:

    He’s adorable! I think you definitely made the right decision. I wish bilingual schools were an option for us. What a gift you’re giving your children!

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