The Quest for Bilingual Kids

By Silvia Martinez

Timely topics
The Quest for Bilingual Kids

We, my husband and I, admittedly make a lot of mistakes when it comes to raising our kids. The jury is definitely still out on the decision I’m going to tell you about, but so far, things may have gone our way this time. What did we decide?


About a year and a half ago, we got the bright idea to drop everything and move to Mexico. And exactly one year ago, we did it. We actually did it. We packed up, rented out the house, forwarded our mail to a friend, moved to 6,000 feet above the sea in the heart of Mexico and enrolled the kids in a local school.


We’re back now. We had a lot of dreams for the year, to travel, learn the guitar, dance some traditional dances and explore the city. However, daily life got in the way of most of it for my husband and me. The crazy thing is, even in an exotic locale, a place where most go on vacation, you still have to wake up, dress the kids, feed them, walk them to school, shop, wash clothes, pay bills, pick them up, feed them again, do homework, do the dishes, feed them again, get their PJs on, read to them and tell them over and over again to get back in bed and that’s not a scorpion on the wall, just a very large … there’s a scorpion on the wall!


But for the kids, on the other hand, it all seems to have worked out like a brilliant plot. We had three main goals when we left for Mexico. Our boys should learn Spanish, get to know their extended family and learn about Mexican culture. All three goals were achieved. Check, check and check!


So the big question is, “Why did we risk it?” I could sit here and tell you 20 or even 100 great reasons for having our kids learn a second language. I could say it was for the cognitive and neurological benefits, for the increased creativity or even for the likelihood of more job opportunities in the future.


But I’ll tell you a secret. The reasons I just mentioned all run a distant third to the excitement of listening to them share stories with their schoolmates as native speakers; the thrill of hearing them address their aunts, uncles and grandparents using the respectful usted verb form; the satisfaction of watching them wander through Day of the Dead displays in a Mexican town square; or watching them explore their culture, asking questions of the people there. But most of all, those logical reasons for risking it are nothing compared to the ineffable joy of hearing my boys say to each of us in our own language, “Te amo mama, buenas noches” and “I love you papa, goodnight,” just before falling asleep.


Do your children speak a second language? What do you enjoy most about hearing them speak a second language?