How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Trying to raise bilingual kids? How to stay on track when English is easiest

Photo by Nada_que_decir/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Surrounding yourself (and your child) with books in your native language can help

Parents who are trying to raise bilingual children might be familiar with SpanglishBaby, a website dedicated to that goal.

And let's face it, for those of us who have lived in the United States all or most of our lives, it can seem like an elusive goal at times. As fluent as we may be in the language of our parents, it's easiest to fall back on English. More so if our partner is a monolingual English speaker, or someone who grew up speaking a language different from ours.

At the same time, research has shown how much a child can gain from speaking a second language. Aside from the obvious - communicating with grandparents, future job prospects - being bilingual can boost brain development and provide benefits for life.

What to do? Roxana Soto, co-founder and editorial director of SpanglishBaby, is here to help with a few tips for overcoming the temptation to give up. More tips from SpanglishBaby will be included in a forthcoming book due out in fall 2012.

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What is your most awkward language moment?

It's been well documented by now that growing up bilingual can be good for you. But getting there? Survivors of an English-learner upbringing can attest that it's not always an easy road, and that the bumps along it - some amusing, some awkward - continue well into adulthood.

I began learning English in kindergarten, learning it at the same time my immigrant parents did. Because I was so young, I quickly mastered the American accent, as did my immigrant peers. But one of the pitfalls of growing up in a household where everyone is learning English is that along the way, you pick up many of the mispronunciations common to English learners.

These mispronunciations vary depending on who is learning the language. For Spanish and Tagalog speakers, for example, the double "ee" of "sheep" is often pronounced like the "i" in "ship," and so forth. I got over the obvious mistakes fairly quickly.

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