Monday, October 3, 2016

7 feelings raising a non native bilingual child when he is six months old

My bilingual baby is already six months old. He is absolutely cute, fun and lovely. What can I say...? Since he was three months old I am enjoying so much when he laughs, when he babbles, when he sleeps, when he eats, when he looks at me, when he cries if I leave the room... He is a baby with a lot of energy and he is developing and growing up very well. Before, everything was also wonderful but the way he is able to interact with me now cannot be expressed in words.
As you can see if you follow the blog, the family experience parenting our child in English being nonnative speakers continues. As I wrote in a previous post, since he was two months old I am speaking to him in non-native English and his dad in native Spanish. It was a bit hard the first month due to the lack of vocabulary and self-confidence. But since then, I talk to him all the time in English (except those times that my baby got too fussy).

Now that the summer is gone and we are back to our daily routine I can relax a bit and concentrate myself on all the feelings and thoughts that I have on my mind.

1. How much I speak in English
All the time. Every time I talk to my son I do it in English. When he is happy, sad, tired, sleepy... Everything that I want to tell him I do it in English. This has become something natural. I don't have to make any effort to do it. I'm just used to it. My husband also feels that it is something normal. Even when I don't know how to say something I don't worry as much as I did before. I just look it up on the Internet when I have the time. And at that very moment when I am struggling with a sentence or a word, I just try to explain myself otherwise. I've also bought a book that is helping me a lot Mejora tu inglés y haz que tu hijo sea bilingüe which has tons of vocabulary, conversations, games and songs that native speakers use with their babies and children. It's very useful.
I am also starting to make up lots of songs myself. When my baby is drinking his milk or eating his baby food I need to keep him entertained so I pick up a random tune and I start singing the first words that come up to my mind. Sometimes the result is quite good and I keep on singing the same chorus for a while. Other times I feel a bit silly as I say things that don't have any sense. So far the kind of things that I end up singing are about how loving, fun and beautiful is my baby, how much I love him, how messy he is getting...
Even if I sing a lot in English to my baby (useful Nursery Rhymes) and when I speak to him I always do it in this language, I also sing some Spanish traditional songs that I like. I love doing it as well and I don't think that this can confuse him at all. In fact, I have also sung one or two songs in French too, and if I knew other songs in other languages I would sing them as well. 
Thinking now about my own level of English, I only have time to read some articles on the web and learn the words that I need to use with my baby. Other than that, I am stuck. I haven't got time to watch TV (YouTube videos to learn vocabulary), reading books or any other thing that would help me to have a higher command of this language. But this doesn't worries me too much so far.

2.My baby’s development (I’ll post a video soon)
My baby is thriving so well… I feel so thankful, blessed and happy! He is obviously not speaking yet so we have to wait for the first results of this experience. For the moment I can write you that he babbles a lot when he is playing on his own, when he has the nipple of the baby bottle in his mouth and he doesn't want to drink more milk or when he has the spoon in his mouth and he is not hungry anymore. As I said before, I sing a lot when he is eating and I wonder if that is the reason why he 'speaks' in those very moments.
I am trying to record moments when he is babbling to make a video and post it here, but sometimes when he is doing it I haven’t got the mobile phone or the camera with me or as soon as I start recording he stops ‘speaking’.
I would love to see how he starts answering with words and actions to what I say to him but I know it is still soon. I am looking forward to it though.

3. My husband
He is great. Thanks to him I have the strength to continue doing this. It is funny, he isn't saying anything to encourage me and it is exactly that what is helping me to feel so secure and natural. The fact that he listens to me talking to our baby and he feels that what we are doing is right... The fact that when I don't know a word he neither says anything nor he tries to correct me... The fact that when I say that sometimes it isn't easy for me to speak in English he tells me that he hasn't noticed it... All this facts are helping me to live my motherhood intensely, without noticing too much the language that I am using, and feeling that we are a completely ordinary family no matter the languages that we speak.
If the reasons to raise a bilingual baby using a nonnative language are shared by both in the couple everything is a lot easier.

4. With family
This summer I have been surrounded by my relatives. It has been an interesting experience, as for the first time, my family would see me speaking in English to my son. I haven’t been shy and I have said everything I needed to tell him from the very first moment. Why have I been so brave to do it so soon without being embarrassed? Because a friend of mine that is raising his two daughters the way I do had already warned me some months ago that this was one of the most difficult things to overcome. He told me that, at the beginning, when he was in front of his family he wouldn’t talk to his first daughter, but at a certain moment he decided to stop being shy and started doing it. So I have learned from his experience and I have spoken in front of my parents, siblings, parents in law, cousins… from the very beginning.
They haven’t asked me many questions or commented it a lot. Just a couple of them have asked me if I talked to him all the time in English and other ones have told me I was doing a good thing. I think they are also very concerned about languages and they agree with my decision. I haven’t asked them if they agree with me though as I don’t want to get sad or worried if they say that they don’t think it is a good idea.

5. With friends
When I am with friends I have realized that I don’t talk very much to my son and a couple of times I haven’t said anything at all to him… Why? Do I feel shy? Am I worried about their opinion? Am I ashamed of my English?... Not at all! 
I think that, as my soon is still so small, there are many times I don’t need to talk to him, just feed him, change his diaper, make him laugh… And if I am with other people and there hasn’t been a situation where I have had to say anything to my baby, they don’t even notice that I normally speak in English to him.
It is true that I feel a little bit shy, but just a little bit… and that can be one of the reasons why I don’t say many things to my baby when there are friends around. Well, I think I need to work on this, but as I said, as he is still a small baby, there are not many situations where I am forced to talk to him. This will happen soon and I think that I won’t have any problem to talk to him in front of anyone.
Another thing I find very interesting is that the more I talk to my friends or people that I meet about the bilingual family we are building, the more people tell me their own experience and the way that they are dealing with bilingualism, and lots of them are doing something very similar to my experience! If you are one of them, why don’t you write a comment on this section about other parents’ experience speaking in a nonnative language to their children.
Other friends that I have, have told me that they don’t feel that their English is good enough to do something like this and I don’t know what to tell them because I understand and I also believe that to talk to your children all the time in a language, you need to have a good command of it, but at the same time I think that you can grow and develop that language as your baby does. Maybe you don’t start speaking all the time in English to him but you can do it in special moments throughout the day and little by little as you learn more you can do it more frequently. Nevertheless, as I always say, there are a lot of ways to raise our babies to get them bilingual, and there is one different way for each family to do it out there!

6. Search of materials and social networks
When we start speaking to our baby in another language or when we are starting to think about doing it, we need to see what other people are doing. We need to be part of a community of parents doing the same thing and sharing feelings and ideas. At least I have felt this way. 
Nowadays some social networks help us to keep in touch with people all over the world. I have never been very active on any of them, but I have started to look up for information about bilingualism on them. 
I have found many things that I have to post on the blog, but again, I need time. Before having a baby I wouldn’t have imagined how much time we spend feeding them, playing and taking care of them.
I have discovered other four people that are doing the same thing, raising a child using nonnative English, and I will prepare a post soon about all the things that we have in common. I have also found a book that talks about raising children using a language that it is not your native one. I'll write one day about it.
Having found these materials has helped me to feel that I am not alone, that there are other people that think the way I do. They are coming to the same conclusions and they are living the same experience. We are a pretty large community of parents raising our children in a non-native language! And I have the feeling that it will get bigger and bigger.

7. Still scared but sure
Since I took the decision of speaking to my baby in English all the time, I had something clear: 
Using a foreign language with my child shouldn’t affect any of my daily routines, my relationship with him, the way I want to show my love, the way to express myself and the kind of education that I want to give him. My life and feelings as a mum and a wife should be exactly the same as if I were using Spanish with my son. If this wouldn’t be like this I would stop speaking in English. 
So far, it has been like this so I keep on with this experience. It is true that the first month speaking in English wasn’t easy as it wasn’t natural and I needed to learn lots of vocabulary, but other than that, I feel that I am living everything in the same way that I would do using Spanish.
Nevertheless, there are things that scare me a little bit, for example:
-Will I talk in English to my son the rest of my life or will I quit before?
-Will he understand why I am doing this when he grows up?
-Will he tend to talk to me in Spanish as he knows that I understand him?
These are things that don’t concern me right now, they will happen in the future and I still have lots of time to think about it, get information, learn from others´ experience… The people I know that are raising their children in English tell me that I don’t need to worry about these things, because for them there hasn’t been any issue. However, it is unavoidable to get a bit worried about it even though I am still sure of what I am doing. 
I think that we are doing something that suits our family, our needs and expectations and I am happy for that. I feel fine when I talk to my baby wherever I am and, even if I know that I make some mistakes or that my English doesn’t sound very native, I am sure that what I am doing is something good for my son.

Have you seen how many things I have felt during these months? It is a very intense experience. On the one hand being a mum for the first time, and on the other, raising my baby bilingually using nonnative English. A whole new world!
I am sure that many other feelings, ideas, worries and happy moments will come as he grows up. After six months bringing up our child, this adventure is still going on!

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