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The Non-Native Language Parenting Experience: Top 4 Reasons You Can Win!

The non-native language parenting experience is an interesting one. Sometimes I ask myself if this can really turn out well. I have read tons of information on people who start trying to raise a child in a non-native language and end up giving up at some point. Here are some reasons why I feel anyone can find success with raising a bilingual child.

non-native language parenting

Non-native language parenting can be slippery! photo credit: steve slater

The first reason I feel one can succeed in non-native language parenting is that, although we are not natives, we are still able to be proficient speakers. Is my accent going to be a little off? Sure. Is my child going to have an accent that may not be perfect due to my influence? You betcha’! Is my child going to say “you betcha’!” ? Hopefully…

Being bilingual from birth would be nice. It’s easy. Non-native language parenting isn’t necessarily easy, but it doesn’t have to be hard; it’s simply a different process. The key is continuous improvement. I’m not done learning Spanish and I never will be. Surprisingly, I’m not done learning English. Language lives on a sliding scale. You never definitively speak a language, and you never don’t speak a language. You’re always somewhere in between 0%-100%. Keep striving for that 100% and you’ll be fine.

The second reason I feel it’s possible to reach the top of the bilingual parenting Everest is that we can illicit help! You need a lot of help in non-native language parenting. Whether it’s help from spouses, inlaws, the neighbor, a nanny, an au pair, grandparents, language classes, language immersion schools (live in Utah?), or any of a million other resources; parents raising children in a non-native language need help. I have help. If I didn’t, I would find help. It’s out there. You’re looking at it right now! This blog is designed to help.

non-native language parenting

Non-native language parenting takes perseverance. photo credit: Brett Jordan.

The third reason is perseverance. I’m pretty dedicated to this cause. I’ve really went ‘all in’ on this one. I not only have spoken Spanish to my son from day one, I actually made an entire blog about it. There is not a lot of turning back now. I’m also completely committed to the idea of bilingualism and sold on the benefits of being bilingual as well as encouraged by the stories of others. It’s important to keep motivation up! That’s why we need your stories! Alex and Katharine have been kind enough to share theirs… read them for inspiration!

And finally, reason number four, which is just as important: my son’s heritage. It’s still weird to think that I have a son who is half Mexican. It almost doesn’t compute. Mexico is a beautiful country with a rich tradition. It gets some bad press, but the reality is that it has a lot of great aspects to it. The Mexican peope are among the best in the world. My son has hot Mexican blood pulsing through those petite veins, and he needs to understand it to the fullest. As a parent, whether it’s in my native or non-native language, I need to reinforce that. He must understand where he comes from. The largest slice of my heritage pie is 1/16th something. My sons is 1/2. That 1/2 is incredibly important. For this reason alone, vale la pena! (It’s worth it!)

Are you raising a bilingual child in a non-native language?

You can do it! I have received a to of support from the online community since I started my blog through my blog posts on other sites a well as the posts here. A lot of people are doing it, everyday, and we need to stay motivated.

Key Points and Takeaways

Find your motivation. Stay motivated. Continue to learn, don’t get complacent. Stay ahead of your child! A big pitfall I see is the childs language skills advance faster than the parents. One day they wake up and their kid can outalk them which forces them to switch back to their native language. Stay ahead of the curve and keep learning.

*Check out my ebook below for ideas on how to continually learn more every day.

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About Jeffrey Nelson

Jeffrey Nelson is a husband, father, author and bilingual living and working in the Midwestern United States. He lives with his Mexican wife and their son, Liam, who is currently being raised bilingual in English and Spanish.

2 comments… add one

  1. E.

    Hi Jeffrey,
    My mom is a German native who settled in France at age 20 something. My dad was born in the Czech Republic (& has lived in France from age 4 until death). I was born and raised in France, both parents speaking only French at home.
    In some respects, I find that their mastery of the language was beyond that of some native speakers. I’m not sure about their level of confidence speaking it, though. I think my dad was probably doing ok. But my mom?
    If you listen to her, you can hardly tell she’s German. Everybody says so. She doesn’t have a German accent. But she sounds a bit… How to say? Slightly aggressive, as if she would force her voice. She has this hardness in her tone. Or is it insecurity?
    I can imagine that, already as a child, I may have (mis-) interpreted the sound of her voice, thinking she would be mad while she was just speaking with some traces of her native language in her voice. Does that make any sense?
    When I asked her why she’d chosen to raise me monolingually, she said she was afraid I might get lost with two languages. Fear. Hmm (my guess is that she had some other kind of fears, like I might reject her for being the strange woman speaking a different language – but that’s another story). And my dad wouldn’t speak German at home because he was a German teacher who wanted a break from work when he was at home.
    Both sound silly, if you ask me.
    I am not a mother (yet?) myself, but if I am to be one some day, I intend to speak French to my kid(s), and their dad will speak his, no matter how different it is, and it’s ok if the language they speak at school is a third one. I feel there’s no language limit as long as there is trust and confidence.
    All the best and thanks for your blog posts!
    E.

    1. livingbilingual

      E,

      What a great story! Confidence in a second language can be an issue, however you’re parents sounded more than proficient so I’m sure it was no big deal! I love the Slavic languages, so anytime I hear “russian” or “czech” it just makes me feel good! :) I see from your twitter profile that you speak Deutsch as well! Sehr gut!

      I agree – there are no language limits. As long as you can provide good input in any number of languages it’s nothing but a positive! I would love to live in a third country allowing my son/future kids to be trilinguals! It would be wunderbar!

      Thanks for the kind words. It makes it worth it when people get some value out of your posts.

      Jeff

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