Thursday, June 19, 2014

A Monolingual Parent Interview on Raising a Bilingual Child

As a bilingual parent I've faced many challenges raising a bilingual child. Therefore, I can't imagine how challenging it would be for a monolingual parent.

I've been asked by many monolingual parents if they can actually raise a bilingual child, and my answer is yes, of course!  When there's a will, there's a way!
Photo courtesy of Kami Fletcher

Today, I am so honored, and pleased to interview Kami Fletcher! A monolingual parent raising her two sons to be bilingual in both English, and Spanish!  
Editor's Note:  Kami and I met virtually on-line. She happened to come across my blog while looking for information on immersion trips to Puerto Rico. The funny part is that I remembered she commented on my blog post, messaged me on Google+ and even found my personal Facebook page and sent me a message there. She sent me various messages before I even responded to her. She also wanted to talk by phone as well,  and in all honesty I thought she was a stalker! LOL (Yes, Kami I did think that of you!) I'm happy that you "stalked" me. We are now good friends, and our boys are pen-pals writing to each other in Español. 
Q:  Are you a bilingual parent? 
A:  Although, I took 2 years of Spanish in high school and 2 years of Spanish in college, I do not consider myself bilingual.

Q: Being that you're not bilingual what motivated you to raise bilingual children? 
A:  We do not live in a monolingual world! And what motivates us the most is that we want out children to be exposed to other cultures BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY recognize the importance of other cultures. And the gateway to this is language! Language is so intimately intertwined with one's beliefs and culture that to speak the langue is to appreciate and value the culture. Also, Spanish is one of the worlds languages! Besides English and Mandarin, most people speak Spanish! I wanted my children to understand other cultures than American/Western cultures. America is not the whole world. There is another world out there and the people that occupy those countries do not all speak English.

Q:  How old are you children?
A:   My sons are 7 and 9

Q: What age did they start learning Spanish?
A: My lifemate and I, always knew that our children would be fluent in Spanish. So when our oldest was 4 and had "mastered" English, we put him a wonderful program called Fun With Foreign Language and he SOARED! While in class, he started speaking in sentences when answering questions and expressing himself to the teacher!! He was in that program for a full academic year. He went for an hour on Saturdays from September unto April. Then we started our youngest in the program when he was 3 years old. He too, quickly caught on to speaking simple phrases.

Q: As a monolingual parent, what was your “go-to" resources to start this language journey?
A: Oh my goodness...our "go-to" is, hands-down, Spanish cartoons on VMe (Spanish channel network)!! everyday since our sons were 3 and 5 years old we make them watch a certain amount of cartoons in Spanish!! This way, they CONTINUOUSLY hear the language which is so important to them speaking it, understanding it and pronouncing it correctly. Because their father and I cannot do that. And we don't want them sounding like us when we try and speak the language. (LOL)

Q: Keeping a child’s interest in any topic/subject is difficult. How do you engage your children?
A: We did not have that problem in the first 2-3 years because they just LOVED the language. Our children have an affinity for languages! But as they got older 6 and 7 (with my oldest), we knew we had to keep it fun AND challenging. They will get bored if it becomes too easy. We ran into that about a year ago, when they out grew the cartoons on VMe kids. Miraculously, my lifemate found an older-kids cartoon called "Chavo" that has re-energized them! They are learning new vocabulary and are greatly entertained.

Q: What challenges have you faced?
A: Making sure that practice daily!! As monolingual parent, I, just like them, had to be committed to this learning. And it was important that they knew how to READ, WRITE AND SPEAK. We wanted our sons fluent! So the daily practice and making sure they are still progressing in the language and RETAINING what they have learned. This is the biggest challenge!

Q:  What advice could you give to a monolingual parent contemplating to raise bilingual children? 
A:  You must be dedicated to this! You must find ways to immerse your children in Spanish or the chosen language daily! It is a lifestyle change.

Q:  Can you please share with us about the Spanish club that you have started?  
A:  Sure! My sons are voracious readers!! And they both love to read books in Spanish, so I thought what better way to immerse them in Spanish than by starting a book club. This way, they can read books and build vocabulary. I knew that I could not lead it and so reached out to people who could help. I immediately contacted the Southeast Anchor branch of the Enoch Pratt library and spoke with the bilingual specialist to first see if any such club existed. They did not have one but she said that they would support me if I started one. I reached out to the Latino community including a charter school and received help from their community coordinator (Dr. Elizabeth Obara). So the 3 of us (the community coordinator, the library's bilingual specialist and myself) all set down. I had the vision, goals, and objectives and they helped me execute. This would be a library program and so the Club Leader must be a volunteer. It was very important to me that the person be a native Spanish speaker because I did not just want someone fluent in the language but someone from the culture and could relay that to the kids. I started this process in October 2013 and February 8, 2014 was our inaugural club meeting!

It is a Spanish book club where elementary-aged children read and discuss books in Spanish that are not just translated books in Spanish BUT represent Latino heritage and culture. Which is why the mission of the group is to reinforce Spanish literacy and phonics as well as promote Latino heritage and culture via the books read.

Every club session, Catalina (our awesome club leader who is an experienced teacher and native speaker) welcomes children and parents at the door and the parents most certainly stay and participate. Several books and poems are read as well as songs sang. A discussion of the plot, the setting, the characters ensure. Each class is held on Saturday morning and is 1 hour and 30 minutes and at the end everyone is offered a healthy snack which is usually fruit and water.

Photo courtesy of Kami Fletcher
Editor's Note:  Kami, thank you so much for allowing me you to interview you. Your determination is truly inspirational, and your beautiful family, and you are proof that monolingual parents can raise bilingual children.  Your perseverance, and commitment has motivated me to start a Spanish book club in our local library! ¡Gracias amiga!
About Kami Fletcher   


For more ideas on raising bilingual children check out my Pinterest board:

This post was created for inclusion in the Raising Multilingual Children Blogging Carnival hosted by Maria Babin of  Trilingual Mama

5 comments :

  1. I enjoyed reading this interview as I also plan to raise a bilingual child with French as the second language. I noticed Kami mentioned waiting until 4 to start the process, my son is 22 months and I am considering sending him to a French daycare so he can pick up the language. Do you think there is any harm to this? He is beginning to say a few words in English and a few words in French

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello G. Rodney! I'm glad that you enjoyed the interview. Your son is at the perfect age to learn French. There's research that says that the earlier you start, the better it is for the child to grasp another language. The best age to learn is from birth through age 6.

      Please know, that you are doing NO harm, and you're right on track! Sending him to a French daycare is a wonderful idea! Language immersion is exactly what your child needs especially if he knows a few words in French. Thank you for commenting and stopping by! Much success on your child's bilingual journey.

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  2. Hello, loved this interview!! I an interested in knowing more information regarding the book club Kami started. Do you know if she has any resources for others trying to implement a program like this in their own library?

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  3. I would love to hear more from Kami regarding the book club she started, it sounds fantastic. I would like to know if she has any resources and is willing to share them with anyone trying to do the start their own. Thank you!

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  4. Hi Magda! As an English speaking parent only, I knew that I had to immerse myself into the Spanish-speaking community if I wanted to get my kids interacting with kids that spoke Spanish on their level. I tried to start a monthly spelling bee or a bi-annual spelling bee but the issue, I quickly learned, was the kids spoke spanish but they could not read or write it. This posed a real challenge for the book club too because the teacher had to start back with the alphabet while my kids were on grade level with reading and writing.

    The other thing as far as resources is that I signed up for an account on A-Z and downloaded tons of Spanish books on all different levels. We had access to a printer and so the kids went home with a book every week.

    Hope this helps but feel free to respond back.

    ReplyDelete

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