Who we are and how we came to be...
If you had asked me before my son was born whether he would be bilingual, I would have answered “Of course!” without giving it a second thought. The truth is, raising a bilingual child was more challenging than I had ever anticipated. Even though Spanish is my native language it was logistically difficult to use it at home since my husband does not speak it. Moreover, my son’s entire world around him spoke English, and at one point my attempts to speak in Spanish with him were met with a defiant “Speak in English, Mama!”. My efforts were just not working.
I decided I would look for fun classes or activities to do in Spanish to make the language appealing to him, but was disappointed to find there were limited options to choose from. At the time we were having a blast taking Music Together classes, and I was noticing tremendous language development as a result of his exposure to music. While chatting with Carey Youngblood of Heartsong Music one day, she asked if I would be interested in developing a musical Spanish class, and I thought “Why not?”.
As it turned out, music was irresistibly inviting, and it completely changed the way my son responded to Spanish. I also found it was fantastic at incorporating the language into our family in a way that my husband could participate and not feel excluded. The program I developed and started teaching grew quickly, and I discovered how fun it was to work with families and children. I could not believe how much language children and their parents were learning just from singing together.
At home though, I began to encounter a new challenge. If I wasn’t singing in Spanish, I was met again with the ever insistent “Speak in English, Mama!”. So it was back to the drawing board for me until the obvious became clear: I had to continue finding ways to make Spanish fun! So I began playing in Spanish with my son, and voilà! It worked like magic. My son was so busy having fun that he didn’t realize he was doing so in Spanish. Bilingualism was not an instant result though. It took many months of dedication, and his path was a slow progression from developing an understanding, to using a few words, to using simple phrases, and finally being able to tell stories.
Meanwhile I had been teaching my musical Spanish program at Heartsong for nearly 3 years, and the idea of Semillitas de Español had begun to brew in my head. I had met countless families who were all encountering some sort of challenge in their attempt to raise their child speaking Spanish. Some families found themselves in a similar dilemma as myself, with one fluent and one non fluent parent. Other parents who were both fluent and spoke nothing but Spanish at home, were finding that their child’s use of the language was diminishing as they ventured into English speaking preschools. Other intermediate Spanish speaking parents simply didn’t feel like they had the fluency to speak to their child in Spanish outside of the context of the songs we would explore in class. Music provided a fantastic head start for many families, but it was clear there needed to be more. We needed a space that offered continued learning beyond the context of our song collections- a place where children and their families could come together to strengthen and practice their Spanish through playing together.
The idea was just too exciting to resist, and I left Heartsong to create Semillitas de Español. We are currently teaching CANTA, a music and movement class in Spanish of our own. Behind the scenes though, we're working on securing a permanent space for Semillitas. Once we find our home, CANTA will be accompanied by JUEGA - a parent and child class based on games that will teach simple conversational phrases that families can practice at home together. In addition, VIVE will offer children an opportunity to be immersed in Spanish through self guided play and group activities that will foster their language learning.
As Semillitas continues to take shape, I hope to always maintain an atmosphere where families can come together to have fun, so that learning Spanish is simply part of making music, and playing together.
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