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Raising a bilingual baby Ask the Experts

Raising a bilingual baby

My partner is French, and we’d like to raise our daughter to be bilingual, but I’m not sure how it would work. I’d love to hear what the process looked like from a family that has had success with it.

A: My husband and I are teaching Sebastian, our 2-year-old, both English and Spanish. And while he’s just now learning to speak, we’re reassured he’s learning both languages when we hear him say sentences like “Mamá, más balls!” (“mom, more balls!”) We’ll get him to sort out the two languages later … here are a couple of the tools that are working for us that might also work for you.

Family and caregivers
My husband and I each speak in only one language to our son. I speak to him in Spanish, and my husband speaks to him in English. If there are family members who can speak to your child in a second language, coordinate opportunities to spend time together playing, talking, singing and reading.

If that’s not an option, consider finding a bilingual caregiver—whether a dedicated nanny or a caregiver at a day care center who can commit to speaking to your child in only a second language.

Nursery rhymes and songs
Between the catchy lyrics and infectious beat, music is a great way to introduce a second language. We love to sing Spanish nursery rhymes to Sebastian and also expose him to them through sing-along videos and bilingual books.

Sebastian loves to shake his hips to latin music while he tries to sing the lyrics. In fact, one of his favorite nursery rhymes is “Los Pollitos.” It’s one of the most popular Spanish children’s songs. We can’t help but watch in amusement and amazement as he learns not only the language but also the culture.

Kids learn best when they’re having fun, so find ways to make the experience enjoyable for your little ones and for you. ¡Buena suerte!

—Nuria Santamaria Wolfe, CEO and co-founder of Canticos, the first Latino Nursery Rhyme Collection