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Raising Bilingual Kids

Chontelle B.
English Teacher and Mom of Bilingual Children
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Join Chontelle Bonfiglio, mom of two bilingual boys, for a Q&A all about raising bilingual children. Chontelle's children speak English and Italian and are learning Spanish. Ask Chontelle about how to introduce another language to your children, what speech looks like in a bilingual two year old and more!

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Message Chontelle

What activities did you do to encourage the second language with young children? I find it difficult to speak Spanish with my daughter because I use English so much. I definitely want her to speak it though.


Hi Edith,
You didn't mention your daughters age?
If you really want her to become proficient in Spanish, the best thing is to create a need for her to speak it. If she doesn't feel she needs to speak it she may not.
Speaking with her full time in Spanish would be the best thing you could do. However if you are not comfortable there are a range of other ways you can use the language.
Reading is one of the best ways, books have such a wide range of vocabulary. Singing songs together. Playing games together can be effective too, when there is the motivation to "win" kids can get very involved!
If she is still resisting, try using a puppet, who "only speaks Spanish" A doll or a teddy that doesn't understand English, and play all together.
Do you have outside resources? Is there anyone else who speaks Spanish who can spend time with her? Is there a Spanish play or activity group near that you can join? The main thing is giving her as much exposure to the language as possible and create a "need" for her to use it.

One Parent, One language

I am Puerto Rican and my husband is an American of Dominican ascent. We would really like to teach our 14 month old daughter Spanish fluently; however; we are concerned that 1. It will confuse her or delay her at school/with making friends 2. That it would delay her speech development.

Our questions are:
1.Should each of us just speak one language to her? i.e. Myself always in Spanish and my husband in English.
2. , when and how should we start with reading/writing in each language?
3. How do you manage interactions at the playground, school, etc amongst kids that do not speak the same language as your kids?


Hello Laura,

Your concerns are quite common, however, the issues you have mentioned are a few of the many misconceptions about raising bilingual children. The biggest misconception is about speech delays. Bilingualism does not cause speech delays, in fact bilingual kids develop their language skills the same as monolingual children. Here is a great article you can read on "Language Development in Bilingual Children" "

Regarding your questions:

1. I would suggest one of two methods:
OPOL - One Person One Language: This is as you explained, where each of you speak one language with your daughter. So you speak in Spanish and your husband in English, or the other way around. Being consistent is the key to making this method work, especially for whoever speaks Spanish, because it will be the language which will get the least exposure.

MLAH - Minority Language at Home: This is where you make Spanish your home language, and English the Community Language. Many experts suggest this is the best approach to use where possible.
You can then introduce English through outside resources such as playgroups and mothers groups. If you do not have anything available in your area, you could make your own adaption to this method. Speak Spanish as a family and then introduce English through songs and stories. This way when she starts school she will have a basic knowledge.

2. Reading and writing can be learned as your daughter shows interest, or even at school. There is no rush. Every child is different, some children will show an interest earlier than others, my advice is to follow their lead. I would suggest, that if you will send your daughter to an English only school, then you teach her to read in Spanish at home yourself. You will find that as the alphabet is similar that it won't be too difficult to distinguish. My son, who is 4.5 recently started to read, sounding out words and short phrases etc. I have only taught him in English, however he is also able to read Italian and Spanish words. Of course he mixes up every now and again, but they aren't too different.

3. You will find that most kids will play with each other no matter which language they speak depending on their age. Of course as they get older it can be more difficult. Depending on which approach you use as mentioned above, you can definitely introduce English at some point so your daughter should be able to communicate, even if basic. You would be surprised how much kids pick up when playing!

Hope this helps!


language to start with

mother language or the second language or both together?


Hi Ghusoon,

Your question is a little vague and is difficult to answer without context.
Could you give me a little more information about your family?

Our Q&A starts now!

Welcome, Chontelle! Chontelle is here to answer all of your questions about raising bilingual children. Curious how to begin introducing another language to your baby? Need tips on balancing multiple languages being spoken at home? Chontelle is here to help!

Chontelle lives in Italy with her two children. Due to timezone differences, it may take her a bit of time to respond to questions asked later in the day.