The Adventure of Raising Kids in Spanish and English as Non-Native Anglophone Families in Spain: Parents' Perceptions Before and During the Process

The Adventure of Raising Kids in Spanish and English as Non-Native Anglophone Families in Spain: Parents' Perceptions Before and During the Process

Alberto Álvarez-Sotomayor, Isabel Hidalgo-Clérico
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2503-6.ch007
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This chapter focuses on a minority childhood education-related phenomenon that is gaining presence in Spain: that of non-native Anglophone parents who decide to raise their children in both Spanish and English. The authors analyze these families' perceptions as regards the development of such linguistic raising model both before they started to implement it and during the process. Qualitative information gathered through in-depth interviews is analyzed. The narratives of the studied families (combining aspirations, desires and motivating rewards, on the one hand, and uncertainties, fears and obstacles, on the other) denote a profound sense of adventure in the way they live this educational process. Such sense of adventure must be understood in a context of a certain vacuum for these families as regards referents, guides, or models for them.
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The increasing need to master a foreign language in contemporary societies is an unquestionable fact. The dilution of the physical, social and cultural boundaries resulting from the globalization process has turned the world into a global village in which the need to communicate with people of other nationalities and cultures has grown exponentially. In this context, English has acquired a leading status, becoming the main lingua franca, a universal language which enables communication globally. Spain is no exception in this context. Consequently, Spanish families, individuals, and administrations are making great efforts in order to adapt to this reality. The rising in the time devoted to English classes at school, and the implementation of a model of bilingual education whereby some content subjects (e.g. Natural Sciences or Social Sciences) are taught using this language are good examples of this. Furthermore, around 40% of Spanish parents take their children to private language academies or private English individual classes (CIS, 2016). These efforts have contributed to raise the level of English of the Spanish population in recent decades. Nevertheless, that level is still very low compared to most of the non-Anglophone European countries (Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deporte, 2012).

This context helps to understand the origin of a new educational phenomenon that is developing in Spain, which is getting more and more popular: that of Spanish families who decide to raise their children in both Spanish and English, despite the fact that the parents are non-native speakers of English. Aparicio (2016) explains that there are several reasons whenever monolingual parents make the decision of raising their children in two languages through the use of a second language (different from its native one) by one of the parents. One of them might be the belief that the ability of speaking one language is not enough to fully communicate in today’s world. They also might have the idea that bilingualism will open a new path to their children, characterized by higher work opportunities granting success. Another reason for this decision could be the parents’ own experience of not having the opportunity to acquire more languages.

Apart from this contribution, the academic literature on this type of bilingual family in Spain is almost non-existent. The reasons behind their educational decision, as well as some of the parents’ insights about the development of this process, are somehow reflected in testimonies exposed in ‘experiential literature’, which are disseminated through books on personal experiences (see, e.g., Espejo, 2013; Sampedro, 2015; Vera, 2017), newspaper articles, blog posts, posts in online discussion threads and social networks, and interviews, among others. But despite being valuable, all the efforts coming from this experiential literature lack from systematicity and analytic rigor. Therefore, scientific research is needed in order to know the realities of these families and the specifics of these early bilingual education attempts. This may be of interest not only in educational terms, but also in linguistic and sociological terms.

Considering this, this study aims to deepen the reality of Spanish non-native Anglophone families that decide to raise their children in both Spanish and English as their two mother tongues. More precisely, it aims to analyze families’ perceptions (doubts, uncertainties, satisfactions, fears, etc.) as regards the development of this linguistic raising model both before the starting of the process and during the process.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Early Second Language Acquisition: Process by which children at an early age acquire a second language in the same way they acquired their first one.

Bilingual Families: Type of family characterized by raising their kids in two languages.

Foreign Language: Language different from a person’s mother tongue which is learned consciously.

Bilingual Education: Education model in which two languages are taught simultaneously, sometimes in the context of two different cultures.

Code-Switching: The act of changing between two or more languages when someone is speaking. It is a common phenomenon in bilingual speakers.

Language acquisition: Process by which people acquire a second language in the same way they acquired their first one, developing the ability of producing and understanding language to communicate.

Bilingualism: Ability of individuals to express themselves fluently in two languages.

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