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My wife and I both speak fluent Spanish, but have not been consistent in speaking it with our children. My son is entering 1st grade next year and can read in English. My daughter is going into kinder next year and is also a beginning reader in English. We are considering enrolling them in a bilingual program at school next year. They would receive all of their instruction in Spanish except mathematics. I am worried that it would (1) stunt my son's academic progress while he begins to learn the second language and (2) that my daughter will struggle socially. She is very social and I want her to be able to make friends and communicate. Do you think it is too late and that we should just focus on speaking Spanish at home and let the majority language (English) be used at school? I just know that once they are in school, their exposure to Spanish will be very limited.

Reply with quote  #2 
Hi Sam,

I highly recommend the book "The Bilingual Edge" by King and Mackey. Their motto is "It's never too early--or too late--to learn a second language." I found this very encouraging since everything else I've read gives the impression that unless you start at birth you missed the boat.

Not so! Studies show that, simultaneous acquisition aside, older kids do better at learning a second language than younger ones because they make use of the cognitive skills they have already learned (e.g. reading, spatial awareness, the rules of conversation).

In terms of stunting what your son already knows, that is not likely. More likely, it will enhance his academic growth. That is, as long as the school is a pleasant place and the teachers know what they are doing. You might also want to check on discipline procedures etc. to make sure they match your children's personality and your own philosophy. This is true whether it is majority language or minority language, but when it is the minority language, a mismatch of philosophy can cause tensions at home and kids will pick up on your hesitancy and use that as an excuse not to interact in the minority langauge.

As for your daughter, she will probably complain the loudest the first few weeks because as a social person, she will be incredibly frustrated at not being able to immediately communicate. However, from my experience, the social kids are extra motivated to learn the language, and so she will probably end up learning pretty quickly and then you will have more playdates to schedule than you know what to do with!

Best wishes!

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