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How can I help my child receive a bilingual education?

March 28, 2014

By YOU Program Facilitator

A girl reads a book and says, "I love you." "Te amo." "Thank you." "Gracias." "Please." "Por favor."

Question: My 5-year-old daughter speaks Spanish and English, as my husband and I are bilingual and speak both languages to her. When she starts school in the fall, we want her to learn both in Spanish and English. How can we help her receive a bilingual education?

Answer: It’s wonderful that you want your daughter to continue growing up bilingual. In a world of increased globalization, knowing multiple languages is not only a valuable business skill, but also one that reduces limitations for your daughter and gives her the opportunity for greater cultural experiences.

The best option for ensuring your daughter receives a bilingual education is to enroll her in a dual language bilingual education school. These schools teach both English and another language through all grades and subjects, which will solidify her fluency in both languages.

Another option is to choose a school that offers Spanish classes at the elementary level. Since she already speaks the language a bit, she may be able to test out of the introductory course and begin at a more advanced level.

If these programs are not available in your area, you may need to supplement her bilingual education outside of traditional school time. Here are some simple ways to do that:

  • Practice “Spanish-only” time at dinner or another designated time with your child. Talk about regular things in Spanish. If your daughter has trouble remembering a vocabulary word, ask her to use the Spanish words she knows to describe it.
  • Enroll your daughter in Spanish classes at her skill level. You can find these classes at local Spanish-language schools, tutoring businesses, or even at private schools.
  • Read Spanish children’s books to your daughter. Once she can read, ask her to read these books to you. Reading in another language is one of the best ways to learn grammar rules and common phrases.

From formal education to reading exercises, there are many ways to give your daughter a bilingual education. Soon she will be ready for a third language!

For more information on dual language bilingual education, or to learn about transitional bilingual education, please refer to Through Elementary and Middle School, the second book in the YOU: Your Child's First Teacher book series.

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