Parenting a Citizen of the World
My husband, Guillermo, is Argentinean, and I am American, and when our son, Esteban, was just 6 months old, I brought him all the way from Denver to Argentina to meet his abuela and abuelo. (That's grams and gramps in español.) It was a great trip. We visited with family, and both grandparents never tired of holding, feeding and changing our little bundle of joy—a nice break for me! And then my father-in-law said something that started nagging in the back of my mind: How were we going to raise Esteban to be bilingual?
He was concerned that he wouldn't be able to talk to his own grandson and be understood. (My husband's parents don't speak any English, and my parents don't speak any Spanish.) And as I tried to make excuses about how we really do try to speak Spanish to him, I realized that my father-in-law was right: I am the primary caregiver and a native English speaker, my husband and I speak English to each other, we watch TV in English, and most of the people we see socially and outside of the home are English speakers. So where would Esteban learn to speak Spanish?
I did some research about how to best go about raising a bilingual child. I found lots of information supporting each parent speaking his or her own native language to the child (which comes very naturally, I think). So now my husband speaks only in Spanish to Esteban. (OK, sometimes he cheats—nobody's perfect!) We try to speak more Spanish at home and watch TV and listen to the radio in Spanish. My husband bought a bunch of books online that are in Spanish. He reads them to Esteban every night, and that is their alone time together. We even found a DVD of the Backyardigans in Spanish!
Now, at 18 months old, Esteban knows all his body parts in English and in Spanish. I'm happy with the way things are going and the knowledge I see that he's gaining. And I recognize the importance of him learning about and honoring both of the cultures in our family.
For me, that's a lesson that we will teach every day in how we honor and acknowledge people from all cultures, not just Argentinean or American, as Esteban grows up. He should be proud of the cultures in his family, and we try to make that connection as much a part of our day as we can. We try to meet up with our Argentinean friends more often, we eat Argentinean food and listen to Argentinean music. My husband delights in watching Argentina play futból (soccer) with Esteban and cheering their team on together.
My hope for Esteban is that he is a true "citizen of the world" as he grows up. By being bilingual, he'll be able to communicate with people from many different countries. And by knowing about his father's culture and his mother's, too, he will have a sensitivity and understanding of people from all different cultures.
I hope he is empowered by learning about his Latino roots, that speaking two languages broadens his horizons. That, to me, is worth twice as much.
Thanks to: Rebecca T. Caro
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