Secret Diary of a Bilingual Educator: Bilingualism for Our Own Children

by multilingualmania on March 7, 2010

in Bilingualism

I shamefully confess that although I am a bilingual teacher, I was hesitant about teaching my own child to speak, read, and write in Spanish and English.

Yes, I’m aware of the irony and hypocrisy inherent in my previous statement.

In one of my previous posts, I mentioned my personal experiences and disillusion with what I was told was “bilingual education” (although it was not), and my complete change in philosophy about bilingualism. Over the years it has taken deep retrospect and inner reflection to unravel the lies and myths about bilingualism and bilingual education that had been thrust upon me as a child.

When I was in elementary school, some of my teachers used to criticize me for the way that I pronounced words. In fact, at one point I was retained because my teacher claimed that I did not understand English, although I understood everything that I learned in my class and was often bored because I had already learned much of what had been taught. I can also remember other teachers who told my mother not to speak in Spanish to us at home because it would only cause confusion.

I was raised to believe that my bilingualism was a deficit, and later “untaught myself” all that I had learned. Many years have passed and I now firmly embrace bilingualism for myself and who I initially thought …my own children.

But when my little baby girl first started to speak, I became worried. I became obsessed with worry that speaking two language in front of her would cause confusion or language delay. I began to only start to read to her in English. Then I began to start to speak to her more in English. And then one day I just began to speak to her only in English.

One day, however, I sat in front a parent of a student in my classroom, passionately explaining the theory behind the notion that bilingualism isn’t a detriment to the language development of children.  And it just hit me square in the face that I was nothing but a hypocrite, advocating for something that I didn’t practice on my own child.

Later that evening I went home and began to bring Spanish back into our home and interactions with my children.  There were times when that negative voice in my head reminded me of all those lies and myths I had been taught about bilingualism. But I had faith and I continued to use two languages.

Since then I have put  my child in a bilingual classroom. Today when I look at my bilingual child is who is learning to read and write in both languages, as well as my bilingual and biliterate students, I am ashamed that at one point I didn’t have enough dedication and commitment to initially foster bilingualism in my own daughter.

I’m glad that I have gone through this awakening, and I urge all bilingual educators who also have been in a similar situation to stop and evaluate their deep-seated views about bilingualism. If we don’t teach our own children to be bilingual, why are we even really bilingual educators? Is our heart really in the right place?

About the Author: Marta Jimenez is a third grade Dual Immersion teacher in Southern California. She has taught for ten years and has taught kinder through third grade in a Dual Immersion program as well as a transitional bilingual education program. During her vacation, she also loves to travel extensively throughout Latin America.

You Might Also Like:

Voices of Bilingual Teachers: Marta’s Story

Secret Diary of a Bilingual Educator: Linguistic Discrimination in the Schoolhouse

Daily Dose of Anti-Bilingual Passive Aggression

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