In this post: Learn about three common hurdles that parents face and get insight from Spanish educator and parent Naomi (@ninosandnature) on what to remember to help you break through barriers to meet your goals.
Table of contents:
- Common Hurdles - The three primary challenges of language learning that parents and caregivers have expressed to us at Habbi Habbi.
- Jump In and Get Started - Advice to conquer the fear of imperfection.
- Give an Amazing Gift - Tips for how to reframe a pessimistic outlook.
- Find your Why - Suggestion on how to tackle the problem of exhaustion.
If only we could all just wave a magical wand and have our kids be perfectly multilingual overnight! Unfortunately, even the most dedicated and capable among us will encounter barriers where we have to step back and say, “Wow, this is hard.” In those moments, breathe deep and reflect on what started you on this journey in the first place.
Whatever your challenges or worries may be, remember you are not alone! We hear from so many parents about their hopes and dreams for their little ones - but we also hear about their doubts and fears. You may relate to any of the following:
- Fear. For example: “I don’t speak it, I can’t participate, so it’s not really practical or realistic.”
- Pessimism. For example: “Even if I expose them in their early years, they’re just going to lose it when they go to school.”
- Exhaustion. For example: “Kids have so many other activities going on. I don’t know if I can be consistent.”
If those statements above ring true for you, consider that a sign that you are totally normal: no parent feels completely on top of everything - at least no parent I have ever met, and it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by all the pressure of milestones and whether we are doing everything we can.
Whatever you do, don’t let those feelings of self-doubt stop you from making your best effort.
Jump in and get started
One way to overcome the fear of making mistakes and being imperfect is by simply taking a leap of faith.
“A lot of the parents I meet are so intimidated - which is totally understandable. And when you dig in, they’re intimidated because they don’t know how to participate. They are worried about teaching their kids the wrong thing, about their pronunciation, etc.
But I always tell them this: You have an entire lifetime to perfect your pronunciation but a very small window of time to expose your child’s brain to the fact that life can exist in multiple languages - so jump in as soon as you can and just get started.
There are tons of tools out there these days for non-native parents, whether it’s simple songs and videos on YouTube or audio-assisted books (like your Reading Wand, which I love so much because it makes it so easy for non-native families to start!!)
Know that it will be a vulnerable experience for us parents ... but in a way, it’s also an incredible opportunity because we are actually able to model the process of lifelong learning for our kids!”
Give an amazing gift
Resignation can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. We might wonder, “Will I make all this effort for nothing?” or think, “Even if I expose them in their early years, they’re just going to lose it when they go to school.”
“No! It may seem like that, but any exposure you give them now will serve them well and be such a gift for them in the future.
I am teaching toddlers now, but earlier in my teaching career - I taught teenagers. I remember in my classroom there was such a distinction between kids who had been exposed to another language (whether it was Chinese, Russian, Arabic, or other) and those who were purely monolingual. Those who had some exposure when they were young, picked up Spanish more easily, even though they hadn’t learned Spanish specifically. Those who were monolingual just kept saying, “I wish my parents exposed me to a different language when I was younger.”
So even if it is hard and seems futile, know that all the effort adds up and puts them in a good place to learn in the future. I look at it as an amazing gift I am giving them that they can tap into as they wish when they’re older!”
Find your why
Beyond all the normal fears and worries, exhaustion can be a major impediment to any endeavour. As parents and caregivers we already have so much on our plates. We might worry, “Can I really add one more thing to my plate?”
“Totally understandable! I feel this *all* the time too, and my kids are only toddlers! What will happen when they’re older, in school, and have multiple other activities competing for their time?
First, I always try to remind myself that it’s a marathon and not a sprint … and that the journey doesn’t have to be perfect. I can have a day off ... I can have grammar mistakes ... I can speak imperfectly, and it’s ok. The most important thing is that I keep going.
Second, on the note about “Keep Going” - This is why my “Why” is so important. I ask parents to articulate the “Why” for their families ... “Why is this important to you?” In moments of stress, exhaustion, frustration, pushback, or even despair, go back to your own “Why.” If you’re really clear on why it is important to your family, you will stay the course!”
We hope you found the above reassuring - we know there will be many high points on your bilingual journey with your little one, but there will also be impediments and challenges along the way.
When you need a boost, remember the factors that motivated you to get started in the first place and keep at it.
If you liked this, you may also appreciate the following:
- Interviews with other parents building bilingual households, like this one with Stephanie Liu Hjelmeseth.
- Free Printables for a creative boost.
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Check out more bilingual resources from Habbi Habbi
We have lots more (fun stuff!) here at Habbi Habbi. You can explore our free resources such as bilingual printables, resource blog, and audiobooks. Of course, we also have our much loved magical Reading Wand, bilingual books, puzzles & flashcards. Our tools are currently available in Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, French, Korean, and Hindi.
About our lovely guest contributor
Rose is a librarian by training and a freelance writer by trade. She hopes to raise an English-Spanish bilingual daughter, or at the very least pass on her love for language learning and exploration on to the next generation. She has a Master’s degree in Information Science and a to-read list a mile and a half long.