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Bilingual journey interrupted: how to go back to work and stay on the bilingual path

I go “back” to work next week (home office), and while I am super excited about it, I am apprehensive about the impact it will have on my bilingual journey with my two girls. During my first maternity leave with Evelyn, I was doing great in practicing the “One parent One Language” (OPOL) method. My husband does not speak Spanish, so the OPOL seemed to be the best method for our family. From birth, most of my interactions with Evelyn were in Spanish, which came naturally to me (I recognize that not all parents have this same advantage). We had an established routine in Spanish,  I listened to TV and music in Spanish to keep my mother tongue as present as possible in my day-to-day life.  It seemed like I had laid the groundwork for success to continue raising our daughter with the OPOL.

Then I went back to work and reality hit. Not only was I no longer around Evelyn all day, she was surrounded by English and so was I. My life was playing out in the “other language” and there were few opportunities for interactions in Spanish at all. When I came home, it was hard to make the switch to speak and play with Evelyn in Spanish. Moreover, she was starting to talk and the words she was saying were, to my disappointment, in English. Over time, I became more and more demotivated to keep speaking Spanish when at home. I would be tired from work, Evelyn would be tired from a long day at daycare and it was just easier to give instructions in the language she understood.. So I slowly, almost unconsciously,started dropping the second language. I would speak Spanish once in a while when I spoke to my dad or family relatives but otherwise our lives just went on in English. And when Evelyn began to talk at age 2, I didn’t want to add to the mix or confusion. So again, the Spanish became even less present.  

When Penelope was born, I promised myself I would not make the same mistake. So again, I started speaking to Penelope in Spanish at birth, I sang to her in Spanish, and I created  Bilingualbabies, a  10 weeks of Spanish program to help me stay motivated and accountable to her. The program and my dedication have paid off in the form of a stronger Spanish relationship with Evelyn. She speaks a bit in Spanish and understands everything I tell her.

My return to work this time will be a little different: Since I will be  working from home, perhaps the reduced or total lack of interaction with other people in English (other than her father) will help me keep up the Spanish. Or perhaps the fact that I have this blog will help me stay accountable. Regardless, I have another opportunity at setting a system in place to ensure I can teach my girls Spanish. For that, I will keeping these two principles in mind:

- Keep Spanish Present at home: Set up reading time, or bath time as places or things that are only done in Spanish; ask ask questions in Spanish, even if it is more work for you;

- Consistency is key: Remember that it doesn’t matter if your children answer you in the other language – it is your consistency in speaking to them in one language that counts in the long run.

I hope you find my story insightful and that you are able to take away from it to set up your own bilingual journey. Remember that it’s never too late to get back on the bilingual journey path.


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