Mexican born mom, Minerva Ortega, has lived between México and the United States the last few years. A professional engineer, she believes her real calling is in the field of education. The moment she learned that she was pregnant with her son, she made the vow to raise him #bilingual, and that both Spanish and English would be part of his life from day one. Watching her son learn vocabulary words in English from videos designed to teach while play, she decided to develop a similar method to teach Spanish. In 2016, she founded the YouTube channel, Tots Playtime, a series of educational videos in Spanish.

Most recently, Ortega started Reto Bilingüe, a YouTube channel for parents that promotes bilingualism all over the world. The channel includes video podcasts with resources, tips, personal experiences from bilingual or multilingual families, and the opinion of experts on the subject.

Below is my interview with this forward-thinker bilingual mom, Minerva Ortega.

MB: Where were you born and raised? When did you come to the US?

RB: I was born and raised in Guadalajara, México. In 2006, I came to the U.S. because the company that I used to work for transferred me here. 

MB: Were you raised bilingual and bicultural? Where did you learn English?

RB: No, I was raised as monolingual with a Mexican culture, but I began to study English when I was twenty years old. It was a big challenge for me, because I didn’t like languages and I refused to learn another. I did it because it was the only way to get a job.

MB: I understand you are raising a son with two languages and two cultures?

RB: When my son born I wanted him to become bilingual, I didn’t want him to go through the same struggle as me with languages. We were living in the U.S so I decided to develop my own material in Spanish according my child’s necessities.

MB: Tell me about the concept behind Tots Playtime videos for YouTube?

RB: I discovered that my son loves videos, especially videos of people telling stories, like vlogs. Everyday he had new vocabulary in English, so I thought, “Why don’t we develop our own videos focusing in new vocabulary in Spanish?” He plays, learns and speaks while making the video; as a result Tots Playtime Youtube channel was created, so we decided to share and help other families with the same mission.

MB: Your latest project, Reto Bilingüe, is a resource for parents raising bilingual or multilingual children. What kinds of information do you provide? Tools?

RB: When I decided to raise my child bilingual and #bicultural, I found there is a lot of information in English but just a few information resources in Spanish, so I thought if my parents are Spanish speakers and don’t read English, how they can have access to these resources? Then I created Reto Bilingüe, a Spanish website with information and resources to promote raising #bilingual kids in a Spanish-speaking community.

We have posts, videos, interviews with bilingual families, tips for raising bilingual kids, experiences of multilingual and multicultural families, and interviews with book authors, and tips from experts in language therapies. There is also a directory of products and services to learn languages of all around the word.

MB: Why are you so determined to preserve the language in your home?

RB: I would say I am more determined to keep my son bilingual. We have been living in the U.S. and México back and forth for period of time. We use the strategy or minority language at home. If we live in the U.S we speak Spanish at home, but if we live in Mexico, we speak English at home. We try to balance the language exposition during the day; my son is also learning German as a hobby using apps, videos and songs.

MB: In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge when raising children with two or more languages?

RB: At the beginning I thought the biggest challenge would be my limited English skills, but with my experiences, I see the biggest challenge is to keep balance between the exposition and interaction of the language in a daily basis. If I really want my son to keep bilingual, he needs to practice everyday.

MB: The biggest advantage for multilingual children?

RB: The biggest advantage is the opportunities around the world. When I was studying, I remember a ton of scholarships in Japan, Germany, France, the US. I couldn’t take them because I didn’t speak the language. Nowadays, they are not just scholarships but jobs, business travels, etc. A lot of opportunities worldwide.

MB: Today, there are many more resources like Reto Bilingue available for parents. What makes yours different? Do you collaborate with others?

RB: Yes, there are many other resources like Reto Bilingüe but in English, there are a few websites you can find with information in Spanish. We are different because Reto Bilingüe is not about me, is about all bilingual families, we are focus on Spanish-speaking community to show how real families are raising bilingual and multilingual and is not just a website showing a bunch of products and services.

We want the Spanish speakers to take advantage of the knowledge, of all the bilingual families and not just of my experiences as a mom.

MB: How do you come up with ideas for your weekly children videos?

RB: The video is a hobby for my son, he decides what he wants to record, but during the week I observe if he needs to improve something in vocabulary and I try to include the vocabulary in the video.

MB: How do you find families to interview for your channel?

RB: I look for bilingual blogs and I make invitations, also some of my followers want to share experiences so they contact me.

MB: What is your favorite bilingual activity you do with your children?

RB: Ha ha! Guess what?! Videos, I love to film videos because my son loves to watch them, and he repeats everything over and over. It works! Now he is four years old and bilingual fluent in English and Spanish.

MB: Favorite bicultural activity?

RB: Travel and to talk with the local people, you can learn a lot from them.

MB: What is your message for parents raising children in today’s world? Especially to parents raising children with two or more languages?

RB: Never give up! I know it´s really hard sometimes. As a parent we choose a language and you forget to practice the minority language, just keep a balance with the exposure of languages in a daily basis.

Be natural, play, learn and speak a lot with your child, and don’t worry about your accent.

Remember the best thing you can do as a parent is to inspire confidence and love for languages.

 

As a parent that found herself with little or none readily available information when I was raising my children bilingual, I hope everyone will take advantage of #RetoBilingüe!

Bai, Bai,

Maritere

 

Website: http://www.retobilingue.com

Youtube (Reto Bilingüe): www.youtube.com/c/retobilingue

Youtube (Tots Playtime): www.youtube.com/c/totsplaytime

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