Language Learning

Tips for Raising Bilingual Kids When Your Kids Prefer English

What do you do when your raising bilingual kids is at the top of your parent goals list and your kids prefer English? I have been doing all the right things! Books in Spanish! Bilingual program! Yet, my son is now 8, and that’s what we’re dealing with. It’s been a particularly hard week on this subject, so I thought I’d share because I suspect I’m not the only one who’s going through this!


My son is in a dual language program. He is currently in second grade. The majority of his close friends are English-dominant. And, much to my chagrin, he prefers English. He’s already asked “Why do I need to speak in Spanish to you if you understand English?” and “We are in NY, so why do I need to speak Spanish?” (this second one alarmed me, given the events of our current political climate, so I asked him if anyone had said anything to him because he spoke in Spanish, he said no).

This past week particularly, I have felt a bit defeated and alarmed. I even looked for plane tickets and thought maybe I could take the kids to Ecuador for a couple of weeks in July. (Though the price tag is exorbitant, I haven’t ruled it out 100% LOL).


View this post on Instagram


Today’s #latinxhhm post is all about #amistad. #Friendship! I had a hard time choosing a pic because there were many I wanted to post but I decided to share this awesome #throwbackthursday pic. This pic was taken at Parque Histórico de Guayaquil. The kiddos in this pic only see each other when we go to Ecuador and there is always so much excitement when they see each other! Their grandmas are BFFs and they share tia and madrina. I hope they will learn from the friendships they see around them… and who knows maybe they will be compadres too! Do you have lifetime friends and compadres? Tag them and tell them you 💜 them! 🇪🇨 hoy hablamos de amistad- me tomo mucho tiempo decidir qué foto compartir ya que quería compartir muchas! Pero decidí compartir está que fue tomada en el #parquehistoricodeguayaquil. Estos niños sólo se ven cuando vamos a ecuador pero siempre se emocionan mucho, juegan mucho y se diviertan millón! Las abuelitas de estos chiquitos son BFFs (mejores amigas) y comadres, y comparten tía y madrina! Espero que siempre sean amiguitos y quien sabe tal vez compadres también! 😊 ¿tienes amigos y compadres de toda la vida? ¡Etiquetéalos y diles que los 💜! #latinxheritagemonth #hispanicheritagemonth #mkbkids #guayaquilesmidestino #amiguitos

A post shared by Diana Limongi (@ladydeelg) on

*Traveling is a great way to get kids excited about another language! Here we are in Parque Histórico in Guayaquil.


I realized this week that my son is really bothered when I say, “háblame en español.” One day, he spent all day saying to me “yo te amo mama” (like a couple of times an hour) and finally at the end of the night he was like “Do you love me less because I don’t want to speak Spanish?” UGHHHHHH dagger in my heart. OF COURSE I don’t! I knew I need to change strategy.


So, my husband, who lately is the boy-whisperer, talked to him about the importance of speaking languages in our home. We again reiterated that it was really important for us to be able to communicate with Mami and Papi (his grandparents here) and Mamie and Papy (his grandparents in France).

My husband also mentioned that Mama & Papa have to make a bigger effort to speak in Spanish and French (it’s true, we revert to English ALL.THE.TIME.) and that we have to work to teach Sofia.

Honestly, it is really hard for me to not get frustrated. I want him to love speaking Spanish, and I know that forcing him or making him feel badly about it isn’t the best approach.

In the last two days, after his dad talked to him, he has been speaking more Spanish, willingly… all this to say, there’s hope! and, clearly, this is a process with lows and highs.

Raising bilingual kids is really is a marathon, not a sprint, but we have to keep at it!

How do you raise bilingual kids when your kids prefer English?

Here are some things we’ve been doing to inspire our kids to speak Spanish when our kids prefer English:

  1. Explain the importance of communicating in Spanish (WHY? is it important) As kids get older, we can no longer say, “because I said so!” like our parent did to us… Kids who are eight already understand and need the reasons behind the request.
  2. Reduce the English media / increase Spanish (target language) media in the home. This includes TV, YouTube, music, movies. It doesn’t have to be overt: you don’t have to say “We have to watch something in Spanish now!” (I’d actually recommend NOT saying this). You can just start by playing music in the background, for example. You can also use the SAP button to change the language on TV. Some channels that have this option for many shows are Disney Jr., HBO (Sesame Street), Freeform. (this is not a sponsored post).
  3. Connect Spanish (or target language) to something they like: In my son’s case, it is soccer. So, my husband and him watch soccer on Spanish-language channels, because, also, I’d be remiss to not say, the commentary is just WAY better in Spanish wink .
  4. Make it a game: write down words in Spanish on post its and have your kids look for these obejcts around the house. Of course, there should probably be a prize.
  5. Play a game: Host a game night in Spanish. Battleship, Guess Who, Clue, Uno, Scrabble, HangMan are all good options!



Share this on Pinterest!

raising bilingual kids when your kids prefer english

*featured photo credit:Image by sgrunden from Pixabay
*”se habla español”
:Image by jairojehuel from Pixabay
Diana Limongi
Diana a mom, activist, nonprofit professional, podcaster and writer from Queens, NY. She writes about motherhood, activism, raising my multilingual kids, culture and travel. She and her multicultural family live in Queens, NY.

Leave a Response

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.