Living"Bilingualism at home can be established whatever the parents'...

"Bilingualism at home can be established whatever the parents' level," we spoke with Miriam Eslava, director of English and Families

Growing up in a bilingual home has great advantages for the little ones. It helps to improve attention from an early age, to improve their social skills and also, children who speak two languages develop more their communication skills, compared to monolingual children.

But when it comes to starting it up, some doubts arise on the part of parents. How to do it? Can we speak to you in another language even if our level is not very high? We have spoken with Miriam Eslava , director of English and Families, an annual event that aims to bring together all families who use English at home to raise their children.

What are the advantages of bilingualism for children?

It is well known that there are multiple advantages of exposing children to two languages from an early age, and that this premature exposure to a second language allows its integration at a high level, even at the same level as the native language.

In the case of my daughters, bilingualism allows us to live together today in an English society, integrating ourselves as one more family, and in the future, the possibility of establishing ourselves, communicating and working in almost any part of the world.

From what age is it advisable to start speaking in another language to children at home?

The sooner you can start speaking in a second language, the better. In this way, the child will adopt it with the same normality as the mother tongue. In many cases, parents have doubts and fears, and delay this exposure or the start of bilingualism at home. From here I would like to send you a message of calm and encouragement.

After achieving a real bilingualism with my three daughters, I have come to the conclusion that there are two essential points to achieve a positive and nurturing exposure to a second language.

The first is to find a balance point where, as a mother or father, you feel comfortable speaking English with your child (whether it is full or partial exposure or only in moments of play). The second, constancy . And constancy is intimately linked with the previous point, since if you feel comfortable in the way that English is part of your life, constancy will come without forcing it.

Can they get confused when they start talking?

It is totally understandable that, initially, children can mix words from both languages. As learning progresses and the child integrates the two languages, he will place “everything in its place”, differentiating in which language it should be expressed in each case, depending on the interlocutor.

It may also seem that the child takes a little longer to formulate oral structures, that is to say, to speak, but if we put this in perspective and assess the final result, we will see that it is worth respecting those months of more than the child can, or not , need. The final prize is that the little one will know two different languages.

What can be done at home to encourage bilingualism and motivate children?

The main idea is to integrate bilingualism from everyday life. We tend to think that the father or mother who contributes the second language must be native or have a very high level of it, and normally this statement is correct, but not 100% effective. There may be cases in which, even with a very high level of English from one of the parents, an emotional barrier is created that prevents your child from speaking English. That was exactly my case. After living half my life in England, I found that I could not get the words in English to address my daughters.

That said, the most important thing to promote bilingualism at home, as Álex Perdel preaches on his Grow in English platform, is to use the NADICA method (naturalness, fun and affection). And also, I would add, put a passion for the language. Since if the father or mother likes English, read in this language, see the original version … the child will see a genuine interest in this language , so it is very likely that he will be attracted to it, accept it and establish it as one more at home.

Bilingualism is common when one of the parents, or both, is bilingual native, but how can families do that without being either of the parents native, want to establish bilingualism. Is it necessary to have a high level in these cases? What advice would you give these parents?

As we mentioned before, that one of the parents is native or has an extraordinary level of English can be a very strong point when it comes to practicing bilingualism, but not the only one and far from essential.

Bilingualism at home can be established whatever the level of the parents . The most important thing is to create a route plan: that is, be clear about how and when we are going to use English. There are established options that can help us define our preference, such as total exposure to the language, partial exposure (only at home, only during game hours, only at bath time …), exposure to the total language of one of the parents (OPOL method)… Of course, whatever option you decide, it is essential to prepare to carry it out.

And finally, be clear that bilingualism at home is a long-distance race, and that it is important for parents to maintain and create contact with other families who are on the same adventure.

It was precisely there that the idea of the English and Families event was born, by the hand of two professionals in training and bilingualism: Álex Perdel (in charge of Crecer en Inglés, helping families to raise in English) and myself, Miriam Eslava ( founder of The Royal Hub, a benchmark in the training of English, nursery and primary teachers).

English and Families is an annual event, pioneer in Spain, which aims to bring together all families who raise bilingual in Spain, whatever their route plan, and offer training, inspiration, community and resources to make this adventure an enriching process , both for children and parents. The first English and Families event will take place in Seville, on May 30, 2020.

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