Parents play an important role in child's life. Sometimes one little thing we do can change child's life completely. Those who immigrated to a different country will find Marianna Du Bosq's story deeply touching. She became bilingual ( English and Spanish ) as a teenager and now raises a trilingual child, who speaks English, Spanish and German.
|Marianna and her sister at public middle school|
Prior to this point I had learned some English but it was all very basic. I had taken some after school classes in Venezuela and had some instruction here and there at my school but my knowledge was fairly limited. I could maybe name all the colors, list some fruits, identify the names of family members, count to a hundred and make some very very basic sentences. A far cry from what I needed to know to communicate in the eighth grade. The idea of the moving to a whole new country, culture and language was quite intimidating! Yet to be honest, I was also just so excited that I really had no idea what a challenge learning a whole new language would be and just what was waiting for me on the other side.
Unfortunately the local public school in my new neighborhood in the United States was simply not equipped to handle English Language Learners. My sister and I were placed in a trailer in the back of our school where rather than learning English, our teachers spoke Spanish to us and showed movies every day because it was the easy thing to do. 6th, 7th, and 8th graders were packed into one classroom that became more of a holding cell than a place of learning. My parents and I knew that it wasn’t right and at the most basic level, we were being denied a full and fair education. Yet we felt helpless! We were in a new country, did not know how navigate the public school system, let alone how to advocate for our needs or those of fellow students and families.
So here I was as an eighth grader knowing that high school was just around the corner and basically wasting an entire academic school year. We knew that if I attended the local high school a similar fate would await. Until one day, a brochure for magnet high schools arrived in our mailbox. (Magnet schools are typically public academically selective schools with specialized curriculum that tend to be more advanced with their content. They are also called specialist schools in other parts of the world.)
I excitedly devoured through the high school brochure and as a family, we attended the open house for each one but time after time my application was denied simply because I was labeled as an English as a Second Language student, commonly referred to as ESL. Can you imagine how frustrated my family and I felt? Once again, we felt helpless!
And then the very last school visit came, this was it, this was my only chance, what felt like my only way to get the education I felt I deserved! My father and I met with the program director and I so vividly remember this conversation. My father basically begged. I remember him speaking with the director trying to convince him to let me into the program. He said “Please take a chance on my daughter, she’s a good kid, she’s a smart kid, you will not be disappointed!” It’s been a long time since that day yet I can’t help but choke up every time I think of that story. I am thankful to my parents for a lot of things, but this one, this moment is certainly at the top of the list.
My father’s plea was not in vain since Mr. Rogers…. I’ll never forget his name, took that chance on me and my life was forever changed. See that school ended up being an International Baccalaureate (IB) school, one of the most prestigious and academically rigorous programs in the world, what are the odds? The education that was provided to me by that program was just simply top-notch. It took a lot of hard work and I mean a lot of hard work but I caught up to my peers with my English and even started dabbling with other languages and took four semesters of French.
By the end of my high school experience, I was graduating with an IB Diploma which is revered by universities worldwide. But that collective experience of struggle with language ignited a passion in me at an early age to help others on their language journey.
Teach for America and I immediately fell in love with the concept. Teach for America (TFA) is an organization that recruits a diverse group of leaders with a record of achievement who work to expand education opportunity by teaching for two years in a low-income community to ensure that kids growing up in poverty obtain an excellent education.
Once I heard about the program and its mission, I tossed my idea of law school to the side, applied to TFA and was accepted to the Chicago Corps. I knew deep down that I wanted to help children who were in a similar education situation to mine specifically English Language Learners.
I attended a rigorous training institute with access to extensive professional development to help me become a strong classroom leader. Ultimately, I was selected to teach at a dual language public school on the West Side of Chicago in a beautiful Mexican American community and so my experience now as a bilingual educator began.
This particular school educates its students through a dual language model in which students were taught literacy and content in both Spanish and English. This was by far the hardest job I have ever had but easily the most rewarding. While I was teaching I obtained a Master’s in Education with an emphasis in Curriculum and Instruction and learned many strategies that I used in the classroom to help dual language learners.
Now fast forward almost another ten years and although I am no longer a teacher, I now have my very own classroom at home. For I now have an amazing little girl that my husband and I are raising bilingual. So here I am in a different bilingual facet, that of a parent. I speak Spanish to my daughter and my husband speaks English to her following the One Parent One Language Model. It is worth noting that my husband does not speak Spanish which presents plenty of challenges yet interestingly enough he is actually picking up quite a bit of Spanish from my conversations with my daughter. Although it has been a beautiful experience there are plenty of hurdles we have had to overcome in a bilingual household.
Now as if that wasn’t enough, turns out my husband’s job has taken us as a family to the Black Forest in Germany for the next year. Not only have we now introduced a third language for my daughter but here I am as an adult, learning a brand new language and going through the adventures and challenges that come with that!
Languages are just a huge part of who I am. I’ve had the highs and the lows that come with the language journey yet I would not change a thing as they have all helped to shape who I am today.
Marianna Du Bosq is the founder of Bilingual Avenue, a podcast and a blog dedicated to help parents raising bilingual children. Tune in to the podcast for insightful interviews with experts and parents as they share best practices, failures, obstacles and inspiration to guide your journey with bilingual children.
Please contact me, if you are interested to participate in the Life Story series and write about your experience as a bilingual or multilingual child and/or a parent. Or take part in the Multilingual Family Interview series.
Are you a multilingual family and looking for a playdate in your language or another family to chat with? Click here to find it now!
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More delight, less doubt. Bringing up a trilingual child – the beginning