19 October, 2013

You´ll never walk alone

One of the most overwhelming feelings when one starts a bilingual adventure like ours is the perception of being all on your own against the mainstream, the majority language. Even when you have the support of your partner and family, you tend to feel like a little boat lost in the middle of the ocean.

If you are not a native speaker like in our case, you are normally too busy with worries and insecurities about your skills and the whole approach, fearing that eventually you´ll fall short and so on… So looking for similar families is out of the picture for a while. Despite the loneliness your guts tell you to keep going and believe that somehow in the end all the puzzle pieces will match. I love Steve Jobs´ quote in that famous speech that has become a classic already: “You can only connect the dots looking backwards…” well, after 3,5 years of adventure, pieces are matching pretty well here and there, and it turns out that we weren´t so alone after all… Bilingualism has become part of our life as a family and our older kid speaks both English and Spanish with an astonishing level of accuracy (not “proud Papi” speaking now, as this was said by some unbiased native observers). I give most of the credit to the strategy of providing the kid with as many English experiences as possible, and this was in part thanks to other heroes we´ve met along the way.

Native friends visiting were a huge trigger as we saw in a previous post. Apart from that we have found a nice English playgroup here in Madrid, and once a month we join together to share activities and encourage the language, making the bilingual thing “less weird” for our kids. Also there are lots of activities organized by different associations and communities, even closer than we expected, like the English group we found right next to grandpa´s place. Apparently these things are like gnomes; you just have to look carefully to find them…

We have also bumped into similar peers in the school, which is even better so our boy finds more natural what we do. It happened the other day as we were playing in the lake near the school after class. Our kid was enjoying his juice and playing with his mates when his radar detected a mum talking to her son in English. He looked at me immediately like he had found the Holy Grail and said “PAPI!!! They are speaking English!!!”, then played together in English for a while. Now if we are good at scheduling things, we can practically have a bilingual activity every other weekend, and most important of all: the boy is enjoying every part of it so far.

I loved to read searched obsessively recommendations from others 3-4 years ahead of us when we started, so here is our contribution (it´s cheap self-motivation stuff but it works fine for the case):
-        Most important in my opinion: Make sure that all that involves the targeted language is FUN for the kid.
-        Being consistent is one of the gold keys.
-      Try things and be flexible to adapt yourself to the kid´s natural evolution. Don´t force things or your kid will rebel him/herself.
-        Whatever happens don´t let anyone tell you that it´s not going to work just because they think they wouldn’t be capable of doing it. Actually if they tried seriously, they´d most probably be capable too.
-        This is not mine, but I like it: “Stay hungry”, and yes you guessed it... “stay foolish”.

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