When I was a kid I thought it was a HUGE pain in the ass that we had to speak Spanish at home. Spanish was my first language and I didn't actually speak any English until I went to preschool. One of my earliest memories is of a teacher scolding me at my fancy-pants school because I couldn't remember how to say "turtle" in French. I was like, lady, I am still trying to figure out English, give me a break!! But it's a testament to how quickly kids learn languages and can adapt to new situations that in a matter of just a few months English became and has remained my dominant language. Funnily enough, despite my appalling grammar and Valley-girl inflected Spanish accent, I speak Spanish the best out of my three siblings because I had the most one-on-one Spanish time with my parents. My siblings and I have always spoken to each other in English, so one by one my siblings' Spanish is worse than the one that comes before. Sorry, Juan!
My parents were adamant that we be fluent in Spanish, initially I think because they always assumed they would move back at some point, but mainly because speaking a second language is so beneficial in so many ways. Not only is it obviously important when communicating with people of different cultures and when traveling, but it makes it easier to learn other languages faster. I can get around fairly easily in countries like France and Italy because the romance languages all have latin roots, so it makes it easier for me to recognize words. Also, children who are bilingual are able to learn new words easily, learn to read faster, have better listening skills, are able to use information in creative and new ways, are good at coming up with solutions to problems, and can form connections with others more easily. This old NY Times article explains it better than I ever could.
So, when it comes down to the nitty gritty of raising bilingual kids, it can seem like a daunting task, especially if parents have a more dominant language or only one parent speaks two languages. But it's so worth it for your child in the long run, even if it's kind of a pain when they're little. I have a friend I went to college with whose mother taught herself French while she was pregnant with her oldest because it was so important to her that her kids be bilingual and then she only spoke to them in French when they were kids. Not only are they all fluent French speakers, but my friend picked up Spanish quickly as an adult and speaks to her husband almost entirely in Spanish! The benefits are life-long!
Here are some little tips to help you out! (For the sake of clarity, I'm using Spanish as the example here.)
1. Enforce and re-enforce. Make sure you speak to your children in Spanish all day long, and make sure they speak back to you in Spanish as well. We'd always try to answer our parents in English and every single time they'd say, "Español, por favor!"
2. Sing lots of songs and play music in Spanish, starting when they're tiny babies. Songs are a really important way to learn language in general!
3. Try to surround them with as many native speakers as possible. We didn't have a lot of family close to us when we were kids, but my parents made sure that our nanny spoke fluent Spanish so that we got as constant an influx as possible.
4. Try to find a parent-and-me class that is bilingual, or entirely in Spanish to take your baby to when they're little. This will also help to expand your network of fluent speakers that can support you in your endeavor!
5. Be patient! Some outlets report that being bilingual causes a speech delay, but I can attest that even if it does, it's very small and it is beyond worth it. They're figuring it all out in their tiny, mushy heads! Give them a chance to get there.
Raising your kids to be bilingual is another way to see how awesome a child's developing brain is. There are people out there who think it's a waste of time, but you have to block out negative noise and focus on your kid. If you're consistent there's no reason why it won't happen successfully, and they'll reap the rewards for the rest of their lives!