"Listen to what a mom does for her child!", I told one of my friends during our chat today: my son, now nineteen, used to be and still is unstoppable: multitasking, with a strong memory to remember brands, logos, facts and events, super curious, communicative, extroverted night owl talker and sharer.
Since he was a baby, he would not go to sleep until very late or woke up many times at night. He obviously started talking at a very early age so the moment he was able to build sentences he asked me "Mami, ¿por qué tengo que ir a dormir si yo todavía quiero seguir haciendo cosas?". He made himself very clear what he thought about the "going to sleep issue". He didn´t want to go to sleep because he still had too much to do!.
On one of those long evenings, he started to watch Pokemon which was on Cartoon Network at 10 pm on weekdays. I knew I was not doing anything good by letting him see that cartoon, there had been rumors about it, children having seizures after watching and he was only two to be up so late, it was not the type of cartoon he was supposed to be watching. He was not supposed to be up at that age at that time. Period!!.
Anyway, did I make a wrong/right choice?. As a desperate mother and teacher, I needed myself to stay up to do school or house work. Did I make the right/wrong choice to let him watch tv so late?. I didn´t think deeply about it and simply decided to take advantage of the situation by turning on the tv SAP function with which audio is provided in the original language. In that way, he would watch Pokemon in English as I didn´t want him to understand what they were saying in Spanish. Why? I don´t know: maybe there were negative words like hate, battle, defeat beat... It goes without saying that neither me nor my husband took the time to sit down to listen what the characters said or did...the characters chose to fight to "Catch ´Em All"!
Parenthood is a blessing but nobody else but you are responsible for your choices to make it a real blessing. Motherhood and/or Fatherhood was in front of us both, so we were "experimenting", trying to be the best parents. Parenthood is a little bit like that: you try so have 50% failure or success; you learn from your own mistakes: already written "excellence formulas" just work for a few people, and we were definitely not among those parents.
Going back to my Pokemon themed post, I must confess that to my surprise he would watch attentively every night without saying anything or even asking me what they were saying, until he once asked me: ¿Mami, por qué Pokemón está en Inglés?. ¿Por?, I replied. "No, nada" he answered, "nothing", he said, and kept on watching. That was his very first continuous exposure to English, because here in Argentina, the first language is Spanish. From then on, he had no problem to watch and or listen to English.
To make a long story short, when we moved to the United States where I was offered to teach High School, he was almost five so he was admitted in K5.
To my amazement, while we were spending a sunny Saturday at Granite Quarry Park, after only two weeks of attending school, he told me "Mom!" "Watch this!" and he made a trick in the monkey bar. He was already using phrases and understood most of what was said in class.
He picked up the language so easily that he became a Advanced Reader by age six: he learned to read and write in English and he applied the rules while writing in Spanish as well. He became fluent reader and writer in both languages at seven. I would like to think that one of the most influencing factors was our habit to attend the local public library where he would always take lots of books home.
He immediately got used to reading a book or two a day either at home or at school where there was a special Pizza Hut or Subway prize at the end of each month for those students who read the most.
He definitely had the gift to learn easily as he was placed out of the ESL program after only two years of being pulled out of the regular class to practice English only. teacher told me he had progressed so much that he only needed to be monitored once every semester!.
He was completely bilingual Spanish-English when he turned seven!. My husband and I couldn´t be prouder and happier!. We spoke Argentinian at home and read to him in Spanish so the exposure to both languages was huge.
Then, back in Argentina in 2008, his passion for Pokemon games and his ability to create made him start uploading Pokemon tutorials in English on You Tube. Even today he still does make some uploads: he has many subscribers: my students too!.
That is why when parents asked me what the best way to learn English was: I always told them: make them watch tv, listen to music whatever is available but all in English! It DOES work. If you don´t believe what I am saying, check the following:
My other testimony, is my daughter now 8 who, unlike her brother, was born in America but has been living in Argentina since she was eight months old. We talked to her in Spanish and some English sometimes but she has always watched and listened to English on television and on Internet, and I can say she is fluent in English without having been taught how to!.