Throughout the school year my kindergartner studied every continent of the world. When they studied South America, I presented a brief power point slide about Ecuador. My girl dressed up with the traditional Ecuadorian clothing and shared some chifles (plantain chips) with everyone at the end of our presentation.
Her peers showed special interest in the Galapagos turtles and the snakes of the Amazon. It was heart melting to hear my six-year-old adding more after my comments, like she was an “expert” of all things Ecuador. I love that she felt some kind of connection and belonging to the country and culture where her mami comes from.
It wasn’t always like that.
She was almost three years old the first time she “rebelled” against Spanish. We were folding clothes when I asked her to pass me la falda (skirt). She struggled to remember what falda meant and instead of asking for help, she told me that “she didn’t want to speak Spanish ever again because…she was blond!”
Next day, her strike continued with furor. Every single time I spoke to her in Spanish, she ignored me till I said it in English. It was getting overwhelming so I decided to let her stubbornness win while I figured out a plan. I had to do something.
Find a “community”
Soon enough I realized that everyone she knew at church, playdates and friends in the park spoke English. I was her only source of the language, but I was not the only person that she spent time with. She needed a community. We had just moved to another state so I didn’t know any other Latino families. We researched and found a Spanish immersion preschool close to our home. It made a huge difference in her language acquisition and helped her to embrace the Latino culture.
It helps a lot when children are surrounded by abuelitos, tias y promos. Sadly, we don’t have any immediate family close by. But I still immersed my child into the Latino culture through games, songs, food and traditions. It was a time of discovery and having fun, but little did she knew that the more she learned about the culture, the more she appreciated it and felt it “normal”.
Visit the country where the target language is spoken
This is not too easy to do as often as we wish because it is expensive but her last trip to Ecuador was definitely the experience that helped her to strength her love to a country and culture that she has only known through me. She spent lots of time with family and friends participating in holiday traditions and other festivities. She also attended a local school for a few weeks. It was a great experience.
Read. Read. Leer. Leer.
Reading makes wonders. Reading does not only strengths the language but also involves you in that world that you want your kid to know about and be immersed, but sometimes it is difficult to bring it to her and make it happen. Also, reading strengths relationships between parent and child creating a special bond where trust is built.
Kindergarten ended last June. The same girl that rebelled about speaking Spanish was the opening ceremony speaker of the end of the school year festival. She did it all in Spanish. And my mama’s heart was feeling muy orgulloso!