This month, I started investigating how best to introduce my toddler to another language. I am not fully bilingual but was brought up with a step-mother who (wasn’t Spanish but) had spent a large portion of her adult life living in Spain.
Whilst I didn’t live with her so it wasn’t an every day exposure, her being completely fluent and teaching us many words and phrases on occasion from a young age (encouraging us to order in Spanish from the menu on holiday, and so on!) did have an impact. My grandmother bought us Spanish and French cartoons on DVD as a pre-schooler and we’d watch them every weekend.
‘Decades of research suggests that introducing babies to a second language before they are 6 months old helps to shape the brain at its most flexible stage. As a child gets older, the brain’s ability to restructure itself diminishes. And by a very early age (between 6 and 9 years old) this window of opportunity has virtually closed.’Bilinguasing
I believe having this exposure to other languages as a child allowed me to grow-up to be a person who always had ‘a natural ear and tongue’ for French and Spanish. I got just short of full marks in my Spanish GCSE and A-Level exams with little revision. And it’s hard to say that bit without sounding like I am bragging (!), but my point is, I noticed this development happen within myself due to the experiences I’d had as a small child. This interest in languages then also fuelled my teenage interests in linguistics, world music and travel.
¡Gracias madrastra y abuela!
Anyway, because of all of this, and because I just love the Spanish language and culture anyway, I wanted to start replicating some of these things from my own childhood for my 18-month-year old today, to see if it was something he’d be interested in.
When I began to approach this world, every mum I asked in Warwickshire raved about Bilinguasing, a company who run award-winning language classes for children all over the UK. Designed for babies and kids under 11, the sessions are fun and multi-sensory, building on the simple truth that young kids are sponges, and they soak up languages from birth. Children I know myself who do live in bilingual households were fluent in many words and phrases in both languages by the age of 2… I’ve seen first-hand that it is beneficial to introduce these things early-on.
‘Vocabularies blossom as they learn to name coloUrs , shapes, animals and the objects in their home. Speaking a second language reinforces these concepts, and rewards your child with improved communication skills in not one but two languages!’BBC Muzzy
And not just ‘beneficial’ but fun too! We joined our first local Bilinguasing class last week and my little one loved it! Using song, the childrens’ names, fun animals and toys meant that my 1-year-old loved the session. It was interesting to watch how learning words in Spanish also re-enforced his understanding and learning of them in English. And here’s the great bit… we joined the class from the comfort of our home!
At this time when we are socially distancing, the company have offered options to join online classes if you don’t fancy the physical (of course, COVID-safe) option. We paid a set price to access the classes as videos via a Facebook page and this has worked perfectly for us, because rather than being tied-down to a set time you can catch-up when it works for you! Whether you want this learning opportunity to be a local thing or an at home thing, you choose.
Rather than just downloading online resources, it’s been nice to be part of Bilinguasing because it gives you that feeling of ‘learning together’ – whether online or in person – being part of a group has other pros both for parent and child.
As well as becoming part of the Bilinguasing community, we’ve also been dipping into the BBC‘s Muzzy series, which was the cartoon I watched myself with my grandma at a young age. Labelled the “world’s number one language course for children” you can explore online videos and resources in 7 different languages, as well as English. I remember as a kid myself, watching an episode in English and then the next week in Spanish allowed me to make direct correlations myself between the words heard and seen as I recognised the same scene and characters.
The last thing I want to mention in this blog… we’ve also headed to the good old world wide web to purchase some extra fun bilingual things to enjoy – vocab books, flash cards and a few of our favourite books in Spanish. My favourite being Huevos Verdes con Jamón (Green Eggs and Ham) which translates exceptionally well into Spanish and keeps the same great rhymes.
So there you have it! I am by no means any expert but wanted to share my own experiences plus a few items of inspiration to get you started, if this is something you’re thinking about yourself.
Also, as I have immersed us in this community, I have fast-learned that the likes of Bilinguasing are not just for bilingual households and there are loads of parents choosing to take part in these classes just for fun! It really is for everyone.
¡Que lo pases bien y buena suerte!
Explore the world of Bilinguasing by heading to bilinguasing.com. Access BBC learning resources at muzzybbc.com. And for those of you local, it’s worth following the Bilinguasing Facebook Group for all relevant updates: facebook.com/Bilinguasingleamingtonandwarwick. Lastly, this is not a sponsored post and, as with all my content unless specified, I have paid for and joined this group as a genuine customer! Header photography courtesy of Bilinguasing, other images my own.