Ok, maybe not bilingual Brits as they have a foreign mother, lucky sods, but bilingual half-Brits. It’s not a big deal, seriously.
Going trilingual, how hard can it be?
Adding on Spanish to our kids already bilingual home life has been on the cards for years, but we just failed the first time round.
Or our daily routine failed to support our kids to become trilingual:
First of all, I am not a Spanish speaker (yet), but I have learnt to speak quite a few other languages if we disregard English and my Slavic mother tongue.
I’ve always thought that our bilingual Brits should speak another (third) language to a very high level and I thought Spanish would be a good idea.
Spanish has got a significant amount of native speakers (about 436 million) and it’s phonetic.
It belongs to the group of Indo-European languages if we’re digging deeper, so the grammar resembles something my little monkeys have encountered before.
Easy peasy, that’s what I thought.
My life’s never been about numbers and especially when it comes to language learning, but to sum up, learning Spanish made sense to me.
For years there’s also been a hidden agenda that:
‘One day’ we will travel to South America and therefore it will be very handy for them to know Spanish.
Besides, if we lived on the continent, by the age of 12 our children would be:
speaking their native language and learning English and another language like German, French, Spanish, Italian or Russian, depending on which country would be their home.
So no excuse procrastinate!
French doesn’t count, sorry…
Or rather the amount of French to be precise.
I knew that our kids would come ‘across to French’ at the great school they’re going to, but that would be it.
I am not being sarcastic here at all, just realistic.
As a matter of fact, learning languages is not being encouraged in the UK.
It’s all about English and maths, nothing else really matters until you’re over 11 years old.
But even then. As long as you can speak English and count, you’re ok.
Why reach for the stars when you can be average….?? And now I am being sarcastic, I admit.
I was not happy for my bilingual Brits to waste time and wait till they are in their teens before they can be exposed to another language properly.
Sorry, but learning Bon-jour and counting to 10 doesn’t really count. Not in our bilingual household.
We are not missing that multilingual boat!
Waiting for secondary school is in my opinion far too late.
Kids need to start learning languages (or at least one please, but with some seriousness in mind) much earlier.
Otherwise, it will become much harder work.
On the top of that, they’re missing out on the multiculturalism around them and that’s probably too much a bigger detriment than the hard work we have to put into learning languages when we’re adults.
Spanish Kids Club here we come:
With a clear vision in my mind and no time to be wasted, I have enrolled my bilingual Brits for local Spanish classes for children run by a native speaker.
Just once a week, for a half an hour to 45 mins with a lovely Spanish lady.
We could fit it in nicely on Saturday morning. What a plan!
And we did and it was fun.
I could see my kids were enjoying it at the age of 5 and they were picking up Spanish very quickly.
I could see that being bilingual was helping them to understand certain aspects of the Spanish grammar quickly and the pronunciation was a piece of cake for them.
They were singing songs, doing colouring, learning new vocabulary. It was fab. We even used to get homework…
…and that’s where it slowly started going wrong. We used to get small sheets of vocabulary with pictures to learn.
No dramas, about 12 maybe up to 15 words at a time.
It totally makes sense, you have to practise what you learn otherwise you forget.
But time was becoming a problem.
We could fit in the lessons on Saturday but we were very much struggling to fit in the homework or to practise a little bit during the week.
This was just a little bit too much for us…
We were doing the Spanish homework, always last minute, mostly on the way to the lesson.
Since I am not a Spanish speaker (yet!), it wasn’t easy for me to help them practise.
I had to learn myself and to be able to practise with them. Which I did and it was fun, but more fun for me than for my bilingual Brits if I am honest.
We had a lot on our plate with school work, homework, housework, my work, scouts, swimming… you name it.
Learning Spanish was not on the top of our list. It was something we wanted to do but it was never a priority, that’s the bottom line.
We were just about keeping up with their school homework, that I thought was horrendous anyway, especially when you think they were only 5-6-7 years old.
The boys were resentful to more ‘homework’ and ‘to dos’, they needed to play, have time off, do something else, see friends, just be… School 9am to 3pm was more than enough to cope with. I get it.
And then came football.
One of the boys started playing football on Saturday mornings straight after our Spanish classes. And the other one got inspired and joined the football team too.
So, my Saturday mornings used to go like this:
- Richie had to be at his Spanish class for 9am, Bob was sitting with me in the car for 30 mins trying to practise for his lesson and/or play on his tablet
- 9.30am, Bob went in for his Spanish class while I drove Richie to his football training (that was starting at 9.30am… so we were always those 10 mins late)
- I watched Richie for 30 mins and drove back to get Bob from his Spanish class at 10.15am
- We were back at the football pitch for 10.30am to pick up Richie and Bob’s training started at 10.45am
Only reading this our Saturday morning schedule two years ago makes me tired. Needless to say, how exhausting every Saturday morning was for everyone.
Sometimes my husband helped, but sometimes he also had to work or simply catch up on his sleep after a night shift.
Time to say… Good-bye
Our Saturday morning Spanish was slowly but surely becoming a chore rather than a pleasure.
So we carried on for a year but when our older cherub started having football training on Friday and matches on Saturday mornings the year after, that was it.
We quit. Good-bye Spanish. For now.
But, for me, it was more like: Let’s take a break.
I was always hoping that… our dream to travel to South America was gonna materialize one day. And that ‘one day’ is now approaching…
We’ve got a date! And a new plan for our bilingual Brits to go trilingual!
P.S. Did I tell you that my favourite quote is: ‘…never give in, never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.’ (W.Churchill)
P.S.S. Have I become too British myself?
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