Boost Their Brains While Preserving Hispanic Culture
Spanish for kids ads are popping everywhere these days. I guess after realizing how important Spanish is going to become in the U.S. many parents, organizations, and business owners realized this country is changing big time!
For many Hispanics like me, an immigrant from Colombia South-America, maintaining my native language and passing it down to my child was a no brainer because I think language is the single most important unifying element of Hispanic culture.
1-Boost their domain of mental/cognitive flexibility.
2-Increase the density of their gray matter.
3-Prepare them better to live in a global economy.
4-Help you keep alive your Hispanic culture.
When I was pregnant with my son I started researching about the advantages, resources and tasks necessary to raise a bilingual child. I was pleasantly surprised to find plenty of studies explaining the differences in the brain of monolingual and bilingual children which made me realize the benefits of supporting bilingual upbringing.
Gone are the days when researchers like the psychologist Madorah E. Smith in 1939 concluded that “bilingualism caused retardation and that second-language learning in childhood is arduous, handicapping, and fraught with problems.”
Smith’s conclusions were based in part on the fact that children who are being raised bilingual chose to mix vocabulary from two languages. I see this pattern frequently at home with my son, it is normal and healthy.
Now we know that “lexical mixing is a good indicator of language differentiation and shows the representation of two languages in the bilingual mind” as Ellen Bialystok explains in her 2001 book Bilingualism in Development: Language, Literacy, and Cognition.
After researching and following my gut feeling, I found the best way to pass my Hispanic culture to my family was through language.
When I started teaching my son Spanish I realized there were many expressions and words that I couldn’t translate in English to express the true meaning or emotion they carried. It was right there when I realized that language is not simply a vessel or a set of rules and codes to communicate. It is more than that, it is an expression of emotions, a way of living and that is closely related to culture.
If I wanted to hold on to my culture, I had to teach my son Spanish to immerse him into a lifestyle, emotions, traditions, and values that I wanted to preserve while being away from my native country.
Many of us who speak Spanish know that it is a rich language to express emotions and particular items of our culture. How can you translate in one word : “Sombrero vueltiao,” “tamal,” “pechiche,” “mariachi,” and the emotion these words evoke?… Impossible. That is why language is closely interwoven with culture.
I think raising bilingual Spanish kids opens your mind in the process. It also makes you aware if the rich culture attached to it. Thankfully, there has been an improvement in materials to help you introduce Spanish for kids and reinforce it at any age; the only requirement is that we, as parents, just have to be well informed.
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