The following letter was sent to us by a Multilingual Mania reader who was concerned that her daughter’s teacher suggested that she speak only English at home. We think it’s important that parents help dispel myths about multilingualism and language learning, and thought it might be useful to pass the letter on to our other readers. We encourage parents in similar situations to also put their concerns in writing!
Dear Ms. Peters*,
Thank you so much for your last update on my daughter. We are very happy to hear that our 3 year old is adapting to her new pre-school and learning very quickly. It is always hard on the kids to relocate, especially to a new country, so I’m glad to know that she is thriving.
I appreciate your concern about not picking up faster on her English. I understand your request that we speak to her in English at home. However, I cannot comply. Statistics show that if you don’t use it, you lose it. If I start speaking to my daughter in English at home, after being in an English only school for 6-8 hours every day, how do you think she will retain her Spanish?
I know as a teacher the communication barrier might be frustrating at times. But rest assured my daughter is very quickly picking up on the English language. Every day she comes home and tells me how one would say a word in English and then I remind her to give me the word in Spanish. It is truly a fantastic thing to watch my daughter, slowly but surely, learn another language. The biggest reward is to know that in about two years she will be completely bilingual.
I’m hard pressed to believe that you don’t support bilingualism considering that there is a Spanish teacher on staff who gives lessons to your students twice a week. Unfortunately 2 hours a week is not enough to learn a language. Immersion is the best resource, which is what we achieve with our daughter by sending her to your school.
But there is no reason why I should sacrifice her mother tongue. My six year old attended an English immersion school back home for three years and yet, we made it clear that Spanish is the only language spoken at home. She has now started first grade here in the states and is one of the best students in the class…no ESL needed. She is fully bilingual and enjoys both languages.
Bilingualism opens up the mind and expands your opportunities in life. Why would I want to take that away from my children? I have also been bilingual since I’m 5 years old. Later on in life I even learned a third language and I would love to learn a fourth. To this day, I feel blessed. I just want my girls to have the same kind of opportunities that being bilingual gave me.
A trilingual mom
About the Author: Mari Tere is a content strategist for TV, digital, and social media. She is a regular contributor at blogs like multiculturalfamilia.com and is co-founder of Familyclick.com, the only digital family-room on the web. She is passionate about multicultural, multilingual, and family issues.
*The teacher’s name is a pseudonym.