Summer language immersion

Summer is the ideal time for language immersion in our family, not because some mystic powers transferred though the energy of the solar energy, but because it’s usually when we have the longest holidays.

Up to last year, we were free agents, none of the kids were in schools or preschools, so when we took our holidays was entirely our business. Also, I work from home, I am a translator and I communicate with my computer and my phone, so basically I can work anywhere in the world. Last year I “moved” with the girls to Spain for a month. This year, we have already been for two weeks in Easter and so far four weeks in the summer. It does help, of course, that we can stay with family. It’s a great way to keep up the girls’ language and specially a very natural way, as they are just surrounded by the culture and the language in its natural state.

This year, however, we are a bit more constrained for time as my eldest is attending preschool and as this preschool is catering to her third language “French”, it is important she attends. We are lucky, in the sense, that I can still travel to Spain with them for the “big holidays” and still work, so if we want to take a family holiday elsewhere, say, during autumn half-term, we still can.

One of the conundrums that many bilingual families face is “proper holiday” or “visiting family holiday”. On the one hand, we want our kids to keep in touch with their roots and their language, but on the other hand, let’s be realistic, a “visiting family holiday” is not really a “holiday”. Especially when after 20 or so years living away from home, staying with your parents/siblings may feel like back to school time.

It is important to strike the balance to keep everybody happy including you. One of the mums in one of my bilingual groups decided that she wanted “quality-time holidays” with her family, so she made the decision to not visit her home country every year, and expose her daughter to her language in other ways. Other people solve the issue by getting the grandparents to visit for extended holidays or even taking the children alone to the homecountry for a while.

Another friend I have, who is a teacher in the USA, claims that for her going home is like a necessary drug, she could not survive without it, so she spends all her big holidays in her homecountry with her child. In her case, she also has the small holidays to spend with her American other half and their family and friends over there, so it’s a good arrangement. So, ┬áthere are different ways of doing things, but try to find the way that fits in with your lifestyle and your priorities.

Personally, for me the 4-5 week immersion holiday has worked pretty well. My eldest, now just three and a half, is talking quite a lot and has only said, literally, a couple of words in English (which included Little Ponies) in the whole time we’ve been here. People assume she is a full fledged local girl, and only a few times she’s pronounced things in a “funny” way. It is great because she has been exposed to expressions and new language that I may not have necessary have used at home, She is starting to see that there are different places like Spain and England, that you travel on a plane to go and see granny, although I am sure she does not understand fully what “different countries” mean. She just takes it in her stride, and she is just assuming that’s how things are. Here people speak Spanish, that’s all there is to it.

We will see if she decides to speak just English when we are back home, or if she will continue speaking Spanish to me and those Spanish speakers around us.

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