By: Davida Grant
My husband and I are committed to bilingualism for our kids. With Simone, we hired a nanny when she was 1, whose native language was Spanish. Our thinking was, the sooner she’s immersed in a second language, the better. At 2, we enrolled her in a bilingual daycare. Last week Simone, now 3, started preschool at a bilingual DC PCS. So how is Simone doing? Well, my feelings here are mixed. Yes she knows quite a bit of Spanish. But, her mastery of the English language has suffered quite a bit. I know that every child is different, but Simone is quite behind some of her peers that have not yet been formally exposed to a second language. So, I can’t help but wonder if formally exposing a child to a second language before preschool is too early?
We now have to decide whether to put Grant in an English-centered daycare or bilingual/immersion daycare. I’ve talked to a few bilingual educators on this and there is no consensus. Some recommend that we immerse Grant in Spanish as soon as possible, which is consistent with the approach we took with Simone. That way, he’ll learn the languages in tandem. Others recommend that we wait until Grant enters preschool before putting him in an immersion or 50/50 bilingual program. They believe it’s critically important for a child to have a solid foundation in the primary language BEFORE introducing the second language in any significant way. In their experience, it’s harder for children to master either language if they don’t have a foundation in their native language.
The hubby and I have some serious thinking to do.
Have you had to deal with this issue? What are your thoughts and experiences?