I’ve got one of the best professions in the world. I get to help tiny humans learn to communicate. Whether the child has difficulty with social communication or challenges with saying their speech sounds (i.e. those cute little substitutions like when a child points out a titty tat instead of a kitty cat.) When I see children progress with their language or speech or play, I feel a huge sense of joy. The other day, I worked with a three-year-old who said papa for the first time in our therapy session. The parents were thrilled, and I danced right out of that Zoom session. (Yes, this is being posted during the times of COVID and yes, I’m trying and sometimes succeeding to keep three-year-olds engaged in Zoom calls- with all credit going to their parents.)
One area of communication that I feel particularly passionate about is bilingualism. Bilingualism is for every child, and I want to help you to get your child there. Why? Because bilingualism builds bridges. And we need more bridges and less walls in our world. I’ve worked with hundreds of families in California who speak a non-English language and have seen what works and what doesn’t. Whether they speak Spanish, Portuguese, Hindi or Chinese, I always check in with the parents on what they’re planning to do about their child’s bilingualism.
Wait, won’t bilingualism just happen? Just to give you the stats, only half of adults who have grown up in homes where a non-English language is spoken in the U.S. will retain some portion of the home language. This doesn’t mean that they’re fully bilingual. It only means they have some ability to communicate in the home language. And although half doesn’t seem so bad, it could be so much better. Bilingualism is a gift, and every child should have the opportunity to be bilingual. For some children, especially if their close relatives aren’t fluent in English whether living in the U.S or abroad, it’s essential they become bilingual.
So yes, there often needs to be a plan. It starts first with imagining all that your child will benefit from when they’re bilingual- more job opportunities, more confidence, cognitive advantages like better short term memory and ability to switch tasks more easily, a greater openness, acceptance and tolerance for others, and for many families, strengthening their connection to their roots. Maybe they’ll help to create world peace through negotiation talks in a non-English language. Maybe they’ll study at an international Clown School in Paris like Zack Galifianiackis’s character, Chip Baskets on Baskets. (It’s on Hulu and if you haven’t seen it and you like zany comedies, do check it out.)
I see what happens when children miss out on becoming bilingual- the language barrier when they meet with extended family (or sometimes even their immediate family) and the difficulty they have to go through to learn a language as an adult rather than a child. As an adult who has learned two languages after the age of twenty-one, I can assure you, it’s tough!
So, hold on to those aspirations for your child, and I’ll show you how it’s done in a fun, stress-free method that brings your family closer. Now, put your children to bed and check out Baskets on Hulu.
And, if you’re interested in boosting your own bilingualism, I’d like to recommend ITalki. I meet with a language tutor once per week so that I’m speaking with someone who will actively correct my Portuguese. My sweet, loving Portuguese, Brazilian, and Mozambican friends will not correct my Portuguese even if they’re laughing at my mistakes on the inside 🙂 So, I sign up for tutoring on Italki so that I can practice with no shame and get feedback on what I’m saying. If you’d like to brush up on your heritage language or a foreign language, I highly recommend finding a language tutor on Italki. Click here to schedule your first lesson for free! I am affiliated with Italki and receive a small compensation for new subscribers. If you do sign up, let me know how it goes! Also, they have tutors who are experienced in working with children. Check. them. out!