Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Support NHPR today and you could win a trip to Key West!

Two NH mothers are spreading the word about preserving bilingual homes

Two children stand on a playground under a sunny sky.
Brianna Estrada
Two New Hampshire women say bilingual families put a lot of work to find the environment and friends where children can feel confident to speak in other language.

According to the latest U.S. Census, around 32,000 people in New Hampshire speak Spanish at home. That means many kids who are living a fully bilingual experience, in particular for those who have recently moved to the U.S.

Ecuadorian Christian Cedeño moved to Manchester two years ago with his American wife Jessica Gifford-Cedeño, and their two children, Aurora and Lucas. Gifford-Cedeño was born in New Hampshire but her love for Spanish led her to Quito where the couple met.

Aurora was four years old when they arrived. Her father says she would spend hours looking at her old home on Google Maps because she missed her life there. Aurora’s love for her first homeland motivates her family to preserve their roots and their language: Spanish.

Even though they only speak that language at home, they noted it is slowly fading away as Aurora makes new friends and settles into American culture.

“She says just a few words,” said Gifford-Cedeño. But even if Aurora doesn’t want to speak Spanish all the time, she understands everything her parents say.

That reason led Gifford-Cedeño and another mom, Brianna Estrada, to partner with Bilingüitos and GrupoPlay, a Virginia based organization that promotes families networks that use games and meet-ups to encourage kids to speak Spanish. Recently they organized a playdate in a park playground in Manchester. Twenty families signed up and created a WhatsApp group to keep in touch.

Estrada’s children have Puerto Rican roots. At the meetup she wore a t-shirt that said mamá gallina, which means mother hen, while her two-year-old boy wore one that said pío pío, which means peep-peep in English.

She says they aim to provide children across the state a place where they can maintain their language while playing with Spanish-speaking kids. For Estrada, learning Spanish is important, as the country becomes more bilingual.

“At least I hope so!” she said. ”It would be amazing to have communities of both English and Spanish learning together and growing together.”

The women say it takes a lot of effort to make kids feel confident to speak in Spanish outside their homes.

A 2023 study from the Pew Research Center says more than half of Latinos between 18 to 49 years old in the U.S have been shamed and mocked by other Latinos for not speaking Spanish well.

Maricela Jimenez arrived at the playdate in Manchester with her three children who are under ten. She says in Merrimack, where she lives, they can’t find many kids who speak Spanish, so she values finding a space where they can lose the anxiety that can cause speaking it.

“[And] I want them to have more employment opportunities,” she said.

The organizers will publish future playdates on Facebook.

Gabriela Lozada is a Report for America corps member. Her focus is on Latinx community with original reporting done in Spanish for ¿Qué hay de Nuevo NH?.

You make NHPR possible.

NHPR is nonprofit and independent. We rely on readers like you to support the local, national, and international coverage on this website. Your support makes this news available to everyone.

Give today. A monthly donation of $5 makes a real difference.