[Mamiverse’s Bilingual Plus is an online channel devoted to bringing parents and educators the bilingual learning tools they need in the form of digital picture books, sing-alongs, and free curriculum-based family activities.]
Bilingual is Better is a book that sums up everything those of us fortunate to have command of two languages know first hand. We already know the advantages of reading, writing and speaking English and Spanish (or any of two or more languages).
We can communicate with more people, relate to other communities more easily and I dare say, we are more open-minded than most monolinguals. Being bilingual gives us an edge both at work and in our personal and family lives.
So, we don’t really need to read a book that tells us those things. However, we may need to read about the challenges we face as parents who want to raise our own kids to be bilingual. The fact that we are bilingual doesn’t always make it easy to teach our children both languages equally. Why is this?
We face resistance from them when they reach their school years if they are attending a regular public school. We may become more comfortable speaking to them in English because that’s the language we help them do their homework in. The other parent may not be fluent in Spanish, or may not address them in that language even if he speaks it. We may not have the time or the energy to sit down with them after a day of hard work, to explain grammar or force them to read books in Spanish. But, we need to. If we don’t, we’ll live to regret it, and worst of all, when they grow up, our adult children will ask us why we didn’t put in a greater effort into helping them be bilingual.
Ana L. Flores and Roxana A. Soto face those same challenges and give tips throughout the book to help parents raise their children to follow in their bilingual and bicultural footsteps.
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Flores and Soto are the founders of SpanglishBaby, a bilingual website they launched four years ago, and Bilingual is Better takes their work to a wider audience.
“We like to say the book has been unconsciously in the works ever since we launched SpanglishBaby,” said Flores in an interview. “We never actually set out to write a book, but when the publishing house Bilingual Readers, sent us a proposal for Bilingual is Better and convinced us that we already had the basis of a book on our blog, we knew we just had to jump in and do it.”
The book is also aimed at parents who may not speak two languages and are on the fence about enrolling their children in Spanish classes.
“Our main target audience are moms and dads who are curious and want to learn more about the benefits and the ‘how-tos’ of raising a bilingual child in any combination of languages,” said Flores. “Our target is also the Latina mom who will identify with our stories, our upbringings and our need to keep our culture and language alive through our children.”
One of the difficulties Latinos face when immigrating to the United States is to keep up their Hispanic heritage and language while acculturating. While it’s important to learn English and learn it well, it’s just as important not to lose Spanish.
Flores said the main message of the book is that every child deserves the right to learn one or more languages and the earlier they start, the better. “We want to change the notion that being American means you must only learn and be proficient in English, and thus ignore the benefits of bilingualism in lieu of assimilation.”
Both authors are hoping the book will soon be translated into Spanish, as they believe “There’s a huge need and want for it.”
As a bilingual, I support their movement and while I understand it is not necessary to speak Spanish to be a true Latino, the benefits of bilingualism are unquestionable. If only all parents knew that…
Lorraine C. Ladish is the Editor-in-Chief of Mamiverse. You may follow her on Twitter @lorrainecladish and @mamiverse.