Growing up in the public school system in Puerto Rico, I was taught Spanish and English starting in first grade. Although my fluency in spoken English wasn't great, the instruction that I received was good enough to allow me to read textbooks and scientific papers in their original English. Learning both languages helped me become a scientist.
When I came to the States to study neuroscience, the fact that my first language was not English was seen by my professors as a disadvantage, something that I needed to overcome. In time, I discovered that my bilingualism was, in fact, an advantage. Being able to speak Spanish and English opened a world of opportunities for me in my scientific research, my international collaborations and my personal life.
Now that I have a daughter, I want her to have the same advantages that being bilingual has given me. I believe this will benefit her future career and also will help her interact with her extended family in Puerto Rico. There are additional advantages to being bilingual that support this decision. Bilingual children are thought to have improved social skills and may have some advantages in cognitive skills.
However, it has not been easy to raise a bilingual child in the US. There is no foreign language instruction in most public elementary schools and only 18.5% of public school students take foreign language classes. In our household, Spanish instruction is important enough to warrant the extra expense of Saturday classes, Spanish books, and a conscious effort to speak Spanish at home. The biggest challenge has been my daughter's desire to fit in with her peers, which I can understand. What has been harder is the occasional intolerant comments from people who find it offensive when we speak Spanish in public, and worse, the occasional teacher or acquaintance who argues against it because of their own biases.
Every parent wants to give their child their best chance to succeed in life. Teaching my child my first language is just one way in which I try to do just that. I hope dual language instruction will open a world of opportunities for her future.
Dr. Luz Claudio is a tenured professor of environmental medicine and public health. She is the author of the book: How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper: The Step-by-Step Guide, coming out soon in Spanish.
This section will not be visible in live published website. Below are your current settings:
Current Number Of Columns are = 1
Expand Posts Area = 1
Gap/Space Between Posts = 8px
Blog Post Style = card
Use of custom card colors instead of default colors = 1
Blog Post Card Background Color = current color
Blog Post Card Shadow Color = current color
Blog Post Card Border Color = current color
Publish the website and visit your blog page to see the results
Dr. Luz Claudio is an environmental health scientist, mother and consultant, originally from Puerto Rico. She is a tenured professor of environmental medicine and public health. Luz recently published her first book: How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper: The Step-by-Step Guide. Dr. Claudio has internship programs and resources for young scientists. Opinions expressed in this blog are solely her own and may not reflect her employer's views.