Raising Bilingual Kids – Not Easy

Raising children to be truly bilingual is much more complicated than I realized. When we moved to Colombia, the idea was to stay for a year, enroll them in Spanish speaking schools so that they learn Spanish and not worry about it. Now that we have been here for a year and nine months and are seriously thinking about staying on for a third year, things are more complicated.

I went to parent teacher conferences today at Jade’s school (our 10 year old). Her teacher couldn’t believe that Jade has only been speaking Spanish for less than 2 years. She said that Jade’s spoken and written Spanish was not only at grade level but better than many of the other kids in her class who are all native speakers. That was great to hear but the issue has shifted to how to keep her at grade level in English.

I met with her English teacher who speaks great English but laughs that Jade speaks better English than he does and often corrects him in class. He was quite good natured about it but it did make me realize that I need to make sure Jade keeps up with her English. I bought numerous grade 4 practice books during our recent trip to the US and Jade and I are working on them together, 20-30 minutes every evening. I am relearning the English language. Who remembers the difference between helping verbs and action verbs and subjects? It has been awhile.

Siena, our 7 year old, is in a completely different situation. She is completely fluent in Spanish and learning to read in the language. She can’t, however, complete a sentence in English anymore and she hasn’t yet learned to read in English. I am honestly at a loss as to how to keep her at grade level in English.

As for Saige, our almost 3 year old, Spanish is her native language. She understands when I speak to her in English but only speaks Spanish herself. I am not worried about her though because she should easily be able to learn English when we get back to the States.

Does anybody out there have experience with kids and languages? Maybe I am worrying for nothing. Or maybe you have helpful tips? Thanks!

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