Top tips for raising an English-Spanish bilingual child

Long gone are the days when bilingualism was viewed as a hindrance to a child’s academic and intellectual development. Modern research has revealed a whole swathe of benefits that result from the ability to speak two languages. But while parents of different nationalities almost unconsciously give their children the gift of bilingualism, parents who share a single language must work a little harder.

young boy in spain

Benefits of bilingualism

The ability to speak two languages is inherently a good thing – more so now than ever. In an increasingly globalised world, those that are able to communicate on an international level are more easily able to find jobs, form new relationships and relocate.

According to scientists from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, bilingualism also stimulates and ‘strengthens’ the brain. Their study showed that bilinguals were far superior at processing sounds, compared with English-only-speaking participants. Other studies have suggested that bilingualism might help ward off dementia, as well as improving the area of the brain used for planning tasks and solving problems.

How children learn

For children to become bilingual, they must be exposed to both languages on a regular basis. Subsequent learning has been shown to take place in one of two ways. The first is simultaneous acquisition, which occurs when a child is either raised bilingually from birth or introduced to a second language before the age of three. In simultaneous acquisition, children pass through the same stages of development as mono-lingual children, though they may start talking a little later.

Sequential acquisition, as its name suggests, occurs when a child learns a second language after the first is already established. This normally happens after the age of three, and results in slower acquisition than a language learnt simultaneously. Children who learn sequentially may go through a quiet period, where they become almost silent as they build an understanding of the new second language.

How to teach

Whether they opt for simultaneous acquisition or sequential acquisition, parents must decide how the second language will be introduced. The most effective way of doing this is by making a new addition to the family in the form of a live-in native-Spanish-speaking nanny or au pair. Constant exposure to Spanish will soon result in the child adopting the language.

Tutors can also be used to teach children Spanish, though a significant number of lessons will be needed for them to reach fluency. Alternatively, children can be enrolled in language schools, such as www.esl.co.uk. Parents who wish to help their children can take lessons themselves, thereby providing the child with an opportunity to speak Spanish at any time.

Some parents choose to immerse children in a second language by spending time abroad. For example, children of a family that has relocated to Barcelona will quickly learn Spanish through exposure to other children.

Top Things to Arrange Before Emigrating

So you’ve decided to take the big step of moving abroad, you’ve managed to find a new job in your chosen country if necessary and you’ve informed your nearest and dearest of your plans. But what do you need to do next?

Preparing to emigrate can seem like a daunting prospect, but you needn’t let practical considerations spoil the excitement associated with a great new adventure like moving overseas. Just put together a checklist of the tasks you need to complete before you go and make sure you tick them all off before getting on the plane.

Here are some of the most important things to get sorted:

Your property

It might be stating the obvious, but deciding what to do with your current property and finding somewhere to live in your new country needs some careful consideration. You might want to sell your house if the move is going to be permanent, but if you plan to return in a few years then renting it out could be the better option.

Of course, you’ll also need to find somewhere to live in the new country, so make sure you devote plenty of time to this too. Speak to local real estate agents to find out what’s available, and thoroughly research your chosen area on the internet so you know what to expect.

When it comes to buying a place overseas, seeking the advice of a currency exchange specialist for sending payments to another country is often a wise move.

Your money

Think about how you’re going to manage your finances when you’re living in a new country. Opening an international bank account is advisable, as you’ll probably need to conduct transactions in different currencies.

You also need to consider your existing savings and investments. Would you benefit most from changing a sizeable chunk of your money into the new currency, or keeping it in sterling?

Having to sort out unpaid bills and cancel direct debits once you’ve moved will be a major headache, so make sure you bring your council tax, utility charges and any other payments up to date before you go. Also, don’t forget to cancel any redundant direct debits and standing orders with your bank.

Your documents

It’s a good idea to get all your important personal documents together well in advance of your moving date, as you never know when certain information will be needed. Compile paperwork such as employment references, driving licences and other key documents, and ask your doctor and dentist for copies of your files.

Schools

If you’re taking your children with you, then you need to make sure their education does not suffer as a result of the move. Do your research on local schools and make sure you register your children in plenty of time.

Remember that education systems vary significantly from country to country and there may be some aspects you’re not familiar with, so it’s worth taking the time to find out as much as you can.

Pets

Your pets may need health documentation if they’re making the move with you, so do your research and find out what the entry requirements are. Some countries may insist that your animals are quarantined for a period and others will require them to have inoculations.

Make English Work for You

When the travel bug bites it tends to bite hard. Unfortunately, travelling the world, or even small sections of it, is quite expensive. Even if you come from a country with a strong currency, it’s difficult to stretch your savings to several months of pure adventure. This gave rise to the working holiday, where youngsters (and the not so young) take short-term semi-menial jobs so that they can save up for the next leg of their trip. But rather than slaving over restaurant dishes, sweating in construction sites and smiling grimly at restaurant patrons, many people opt to take up teaching; specifically TEFL) Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) or TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages).  Teaching English Courses  English is increasingly recognised as the global business language, which means that countries in which English is not the first language are clamouring for English teachers. In some cases, they aren’t too picky about the qualifications of these teachers, in which case you can get away with a relatively basic TEFL course. But as more TEFL teachers enter the market, countries have become pickier and some now only consider people who have more formal qualifications, such as CELTA (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages).  CELTA courses are more in-depth than TEFL courses, although they cover similar topics. They are also more tightly regulated, as only Cambridge University registered and accredited course providers may teach CELTA courses. As an added advantage, CELTA courses have international recognition.  A basic outline of CELTA and TEFL courses includes:      Language skills     Teaching skills     Lesson planning     Setting tests     Creating learning materials     Navigating learning environments  Where Can I teach?  The answer is pretty much anywhere.  The most popular destinations for TEFL teachers include Korea, China, Czech Republic, Italy and Brazil (Kelly Lalonde, matadornetwork.com).  But you can also ply your trade in Russia, Turkey, Egypt, Dubai, Italy, Chile, Malaysia and Cyprus. Benefits of Teaching Abroad  The most obvious is the flexibility to travel. You don’t have to stay in one job for a particularly lengthy period of time – it depends on the contract. If you are bound to one country for six months to a year, you get to experience the culture on a much deeper and more personal level. After all, you need at least a year to see all that Thailand has to offer.  You grow as a person as you experience new cultures. Your mind broadens, your perception of people widens, you gain greater appreciation for all walks of life, you make lots of friends, you learn new languages and you learn skills that will stand you in good stead no matter what you decide to do with your life. Skills like patience, tolerance, resilience, determination and self-confidence. You also learn self-reliance as you usually don’t have anyone else to help you solve your problems. There Are Some Disadvantages      You won’t earn as much as a fully qualified teacher.     Depending on the country and on the school, you might have to teach on weekends – Saturdays at least.     Loneliness is always going to be a factor. You’ll eventually get over missing your family and friends back home, but if you move around a lot you’ll have to get over missing all the friends you make in each community that you’ve lived in.  How Do I Get Teaching Jobs?  You can just arrive in a country and search the classifieds or look online. But there is always the danger than you’ll end up in a dodgy school that exploits inexperienced foreign teachers.  It’s usually best to use an agency, at least for your first couple of jobs. Agencies will help you with things like work visas, accommodation and contracts. But, you need to choose your agency carefully, because there are also those out there looking to fleece inexperienced travellers.  Many people find that they enjoy teaching English so much that they make it a lifelong career, completely indulging their travel bug and, occasionally, applying their skills at home.  Photo credit  This guest post was written by Sandy Cosser on behalf of Now Learning, an education portal in Australia that promotes online education courses, including English for Specific Purposes (TESOL) and diplomas for teachers’ aides.When the travel bug bites it tends to bite hard. Unfortunately, travelling the world, or even small sections of it, is quite expensive. Even if you come from a country with a strong currency, it’s difficult to stretch your savings to several months of pure adventure. This gave rise to the working holiday, where youngsters (and the not so young) take short-term semi-menial jobs so that they can save up for the next leg of their trip. But rather than slaving over restaurant dishes, sweating in construction sites and smiling grimly at restaurant patrons, many people opt to take up teaching; specifically TEFL) Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) or TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages).

Teaching English Courses

English is increasingly recognised as the global business language, which means that countries in which English is not the first language are clamouring for English teachers. In some cases, they aren’t too picky about the qualifications of these teachers, in which case you can get away with a relatively basic TEFL course. But as more TEFL teachers enter the market, countries have become pickier and some now only consider people who have more formal qualifications, such as CELTA (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages).

CELTA courses are more in-depth than TEFL courses, although they cover similar topics. They are also more tightly regulated, as only Cambridge University registered and accredited course providers may teach CELTA courses. As an added advantage, CELTA courses have international recognition.

A basic outline of CELTA and TEFL courses includes:

  • Language skills
  • Teaching skills
  • Lesson planning
  • Setting tests
  • Creating learning materials
  • Navigating learning environments

Where Can I teach?

The answer is pretty much anywhere.

The most popular destinations for TEFL teachers include Korea, China, Czech Republic, Italy and Brazil (Kelly Lalonde, matadornetwork.com).

But you can also ply your trade in Russia, Turkey, Egypt, Dubai, Italy, Chile, Malaysia and Cyprus.

Benefits of Teaching Abroad

The most obvious is the flexibility to travel. You don’t have to stay in one job for a particularly lengthy period of time – it depends on the contract. If you are bound to one country for six months to a year, you get to experience the culture on a much deeper and more personal level. After all, you need at least a year to see all that Thailand has to offer.

You grow as a person as you experience new cultures. Your mind broadens, your perception of people widens, you gain greater appreciation for all walks of life, you make lots of friends, you learn new languages and you learn skills that will stand you in good stead no matter what you decide to do with your life. Skills like patience, tolerance, resilience, determination and self-confidence. You also learn self-reliance as you usually don’t have anyone else to help you solve your problems.

There Are Some Disadvantages

  • You won’t earn as much as a fully qualified teacher.
  • Depending on the country and on the school, you might have to teach on weekends – Saturdays at least.
  • Loneliness is always going to be a factor. You’ll eventually get over missing your family and friends back home, but if you move around a lot you’ll have to get over missing all the friends you make in each community that you’ve lived in.

How Do I Get Teaching Jobs?

You can just arrive in a country and search the classifieds or look online. But there is always the danger than you’ll end up in a dodgy school that exploits inexperienced foreign teachers.

It’s usually best to use an agency, at least for your first couple of jobs. Agencies will help you with things like work visas, accommodation and contracts. But, you need to choose your agency carefully, because there are also those out there looking to fleece inexperienced travellers.

Many people find that they enjoy teaching English so much that they make it a lifelong career, completely indulging their travel bug and, occasionally, applying their skills at home.

This guest post was written by Sandy Cosser on behalf of Now Learning, an education portal in Australia that promotes online education courses, including English for Specific Purposes (TESOL) and diplomas for teachers’ aides.