If kids don't need to use their minority language, they won't.
What did I do when my son stopped speaking Spanish just one month after a cross country move separated us from our Spanish speaking community?
First, I cried...
Then I set to work on re-creating the community we had just left behind.
I put the word out to my husband’s coworkers (our only connections in this new town). And slowly names started surfacing...Emily grew up in Mexico, Iris is from Columbia, Dejah lived in Latin America.
I asked them, "Would you be interested in a weekly Spanish-only-speaking playdate at my house?"
And you know what? They said yes.
For three years we met together sharing stories, songs, crafts and fun with our children.
It was awesome, but how could I reach more people with this idea?
Many people had shared with me about a local organization that works with kids and families in our area. They already had a bilingual staff member and worked with the Hispanic population in our area.
I approached this organization to see if I could start a bilingual storytime at their location.
They eagerly accepted, and for a time we moved our weekly playdates there. After a few months of hosting storytime at their location, the organization approached me with an idea.
They had long been wanting to start a bilingual preschool for our area. Could they contract me to start it?
I was thrilled.
That fall, DUAL School became the first bilingual preschool in our area!
We enrolled our oldest in DUAL School for three mornings a week. Half of the class only spoke Spanish, and I watched his Spanish skills revive as his drive to play and talk with his buddies created the need he had been missing since our move.
I didn't set out to start a bilingual preschool in our rural town. I started with a simple Spanish-only playdate, and it grew from there.
Here's a few more ways I can think of to gather a community of minority language speakers around you.
Ways to Create Need
I hope my story is encouraging to those struggling with how to create the need to use your minority language in an English dominated society.
There are ways! Get creative! It’s not easy, but it is worth it.