My life has always been about two languages, two cultures, and taking the best of each. I’m also an advertising strategic planner on accounts that serve the U.S. Hispanic community so understanding the dynamics of language and biculturalism is imperative in order to ensure brands speak to our consumers in a relevant and meaningful way.
Having conducted many consumer research studies with Latina moms, one thing that impresses me is their desire to pass on their heritage and language to their kids, regardless of what their personal language preference is. They all aspire to raise bilingual and bicultural children. Oftentimes, I hear versions of stories that remind me of my own story.
My parents are the true definition of the “American Dream” having immigrated to the U.S. in the early 70’s with little in their pockets and a heart full of dreams. They came here with determination and heartbreak, all at the same time, because they saw in the U.S. a land of opportunity that would allow them to build their home and give me a brighter future. They placed their own needs aside and made tremendous sacrifices. Throughout my childhood, they transmitted these motivations, values and expectations on to me. A chance to do more than they did, a chance at a better life, a belief that anything is possible. Throughout it all, they never let me forget where I came from and always spoke to me in Spanish and expected I respond likewise. They made a conscious effort to not let me fall into the comfort of an English-only world. During a time when many Latinos wanted to assimilate and adapt to U.S. practices, my parents did all they could to retain our Latino heritage and values that so defined us. As a result, I am fully bicultural and bilingual, and can navigate both worlds seamlessly.
Just like my parents and the Latina moms I study, this is what I want for my kids too. It’s not always easy, especially after spending a bulk of their day in school speaking in English. In my ideal world, language would be a requirement in elementary schools. This would provide a continuum to our efforts, it would be fun for the kids, it would boost brain development because they are like little sponges at this age, and it would prepare them for the increasingly ethnically and racially diverse society we live in.
Growing up bilingual and bicultural gives you a little “more” of everything, more variety in just about everything in your life…more foods to try, more music to listen to, more fashion to wear, more programming to watch, more books to read, more things to say… all things that add more sabor to your vida .
So if you’re a parent with the same goal, I applaud you. It’s not always easy but the rewards are huge…