Spoiler alert: I get on my soapbox in this post.
I had a conversation this past week with someone who plans to raise their child as a bilingual English/Spanish speaker, and this person is not a native speaker of Spanish. Unfortunately, this person has run into one of those naysayers who does not believe this is possible. The naysayer gave the impression that this is a silly thing that people who are not yet parents dream to accomplish, but never do so.
To this naysayer, whom I am sure would NEVER find my multilingual parenting blog, watch me! I say this not for the sake of this person, I say this for anyone who is uncertain if this can be done. This may include prospective parents, or parents who are considering this avenue for their family. Don’t let anyone else dictate what you and/or your family members are capable of doing. I have known for years, before I even met my husband and became a mother, that I want to share French with my offspring. So I am, and I will. To have the last laugh, I might just toss in Spanish as well.
It is rare to find a bilingual or multilingual person who has no accent in any of their languages, or for whom switching between languages in every context is a breeze. Regardless of how you define bilingualism (and there are a few definitions out there), hang your hat on the one that you can personally live with, and just enjoy sharing the language with your children. Who cares if they are going to be perfect speakers?
Yes, sharing the language can present challenges for a family, especially if you are a non-native speaker living in a country where the target language is not a majority language, but it is also a lot of fun. If you, like me, enjoy more than one language, and more than one culture, then the work is rewarding. This endeavor allows the non-native speaker to keep his or her own language skills sharp. By modeling the learning process, the parent will teach their children skills about learning that can be valuable in other subject areas. I fully expect A. to think everyone’s parents do foreign language grammar exercises in the evenings, or listen to Spanish/French radio news. Curiosity is a value in our home, and intercultural communication will be an emphasis.
If you are curious, if you are dubious, just keep reading. I hope to give you a reason to believe there is value in this process.