One of my duties as Editor of this blog is to find and share resources with our language-learning community; from time to time I find a gem. Last month I spoke with Deanna Lyles and her husband and business partner Ìñigo Gil who started Bilingual Readers, a Madrid-based publishing company specializing in Spanish/English books for bilingual children and adults.
Why did you start Bilingual Readers?
Íñigo and I started Bilingual Readers three years ago to combine our love of books with our love of languages. As a bicultural (American/Spanish) couple living in Spain, we wanted to create books, which reflected both our languages and backgrounds. Since then we’ve published a series of high quality, bilingual (Spanish/English) books for children and adults, which are currently available in the United States and Spain. We’ve also been busy creating a strong international community of bilingual families around the world, and we even partnered with Sinews, the International Institute in Madrid, to create a very popular on-line consultation for bilingual families.
What benefits do you see for children learning a second language?
I don’t even know how to begin to describe the many benefits for children learning a second language. In addition to the obvious benefit of being able to communicate with more people having a broader worldview, bilingual children also enjoy many cognitive benefits, such as improved executive function, a greater attention span, the enhanced ability to learn additional languages, etc. As someone who learned her second language as a young adult, I’m especially aware of the benefits of being exposed to two languages at such a young age.
As bilingual business people, how do you view the roll of language in the workplace?
Íñigo and I both use English in Spanish on a daily basis; Bilingual Readers simply could not function in just one language. We are constantly switching back and forth depending on whom we’re speaking to and which books we’re working on. Even our website and blog are completely bilingual.
Does Bilingual Readers have an equivalent in French, Chinese, or any other languages?
Not yet! We are looking to partner with foreign publishers to make our books available in other languages, though.
What tips would you give to adult older language learners?
My first piece of advice would be to create a need for the second language. People need incentives; they need to know that they’re doing something for a reason. Find something that truly motivates you to learn a new language. Moving to a country where the language is spoken is obviously the easiest way to create this need, but you can also seek out friends who speak the language or join a club or other activity where the language is spoken. Watching movies and TV shows in the language is helpful, but reading in the language will teach you more than both of those activities combined. I don’t mean that you have to read the great works of literature in your target language, but try to find books, blogs, magazines and newspapers in the language and read about things you’re already interested in. Your vocabulary will increase exponentially and your grammar will improve without you even realizing it.
Beyond Bilingual Readers’ focus on best practices for teaching children a second language, the resources and tips that are available on the Bilingual Reader website are a fantastic tool for language learners of any age. Additionally, they have a well-written and informative blog that addresses the many challenges that parents may have when trying to create a bilingual environment for their kids.
I want to thank Deanna and Ìñigo for sharing their story. For more information, tips, and resources, visit their web site at bilingualreaders.com, find them on Facebook and Twitter and myriad other venues including YouTube, Flickr, and goodreads.
TIP – For Spanish language learners – In line with one of My Personal Top Ten Tips, “Read children’s books,” take a peek at the Catalogue on the Bilingual Readers website. Maybe you’ll find a good book for summer language learning.