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How To Get Your Kids To Speak Your Language

Note: This experience had to do with preserving Spanish for our kids but the principles are valid for anyone trying to help their kids speak and preserve any language and culture. COUNTRY OF MANY PEOPLES This country,,, (The authors raised their kids in the United States but they believe that their experience can be useful for people in other non-spanish-speaking countries.) This country is made up of people from all over the world. We or our parents came from Latin countries. We now live here. We function in two different worlds, the American world and the world of our parents.

All of us live in these two different worlds in different ways. Some of us were born in the countries our parents came from; others of us were born here. This makes a difference in how and how much we live in our two worlds. COUNTRY OF MANY LANGUAGES The one thing that is most important in our parents' world is their language which is also ours in different ways. The Spanish language of our parents is an issue to all of us every day.

We may be proud to speak it well. We may be ashamed at not speaking it well. Some of us may have gone through periods of trying not to speak it because we wanted to speak English better. We may only speak it when we come across someone who needs help in understanding English. We may only remember some sayings of our grandparents or children's songs taught to us by our parents. You may want to review (or study it for the first time) your Spanish. We could only find one reference for you. It is expensive and is a textbook, not too appealing but complete. Take a look at Nuevos Mundos, Spanish for Native Speakers 2nd Edition, Workbook : Curso de espanol para estudiantes bilingues" F. Bruce Robinson, assistant director in the National Endowment for the Humanities' division of education programs asks "How does America preserve this important resource of people who are proficient in other languages? Instead of trying to depress the knowledge these students come to school with, we ought to be trying to build on it.

" (Chronicle of Higher Education, Feb. 2, 1994, page A15) OUR CHILDREN AND OUR LANGUAGE We all want our children to speak the language of their heritage. We discount the opinions of those who say that it is better to forget Spanish and to concentrate on speaking English well. These people are just wrong. It does not hurt your English to speak another language; it helps. Spanish is particularly useful to children in their learning English vocabulary. Just today I taught my daughter the difference between vowels and consonants. Knowing Spanish really helped with the idea of the consonants. I told her that the consonants have no voice; they can only be pronounced with the vowels. The con-sonants suenan con the vowels.

But although most of us agree that it is a good thing for our kids to speak Spanish, most kids in the US whose parents were born in Latin American countries do not speak Spanish well. Even if both parents speak Spanish at home, quite often the kids answer their parents in English. Look around at your Latin friends and relatives and you will see that most give up on teaching their kids to speak Spanish. Chicano and Puerto Rican families seem to have a little better luck than Latinos from other countries with keeping Spanish alive in their barrios but even their younger generation is losing fluency in Spanish. However, parents who want their children to speak Spanish can go against the current and set the stage for their children to grow up speaking Spanish. It is not easy. Most families fail in their resolve but it can be done. This report will give some hints on how to improve your chances. REASONS FOR OUR CHILDREN TO SPEAK SPANISH There are many reasons why it is good for the kids to speak your language. One obvious reason is the advantage that it might be for them in the job market.

As long as we live in a world with shrunken distances and growing international trade, someone has to be able to talk with people from other countries. Professor Francisco X. Alarcón of the University of California at Davis says that "now that we are moving toward a global economy, it's O. to be bilingual in the U." (Chronicle of Higher Education, Feb.2, 1994, page A15) Another good reason for you to work at your children's learning to speak Spanish is because it will make you proud to hear the compliments of your friends and countrymen because your children are able to speak your language. You grow in prestige as a person who values your roots.


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