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Reading is a superpower, supercharge it by being bilingual!

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Edith Treviño Ed. D.
March 2, 2024

Speaking two languages is an asset. Reading in two languages only adds to the gifts of bilingualism.

Every day, I share with my students and teachers that bilingualism is a superpower. If you speak English and Spanish, this is an asset which can significantly and positively impact your life, personally, professionally, as well as academically.

How does reading contribute to this superpower? There are a million ways in which bilingualism becomes an asset. One of my favorite ways to activate this superpower is by recognizing how easy bilingual students are able to read in English or Spanish. Chomsky, language theorist concludes that children are born with linguistic information at birth. Which means that children are born with mechanisms to learn different languages.

On various occasions students have shared with me comments such as “I can’t read in Spanish” or “No puedo leer en Inglés” which is not the case. If a student can read a Latin-based language such as English, he or she is also able to read in Spanish. On the same token, if a student can read in Spanish, he or she can also read in English. Comprehension comes second but reading happens first. This process is easier than people might think. How is this so? The language that we already know is already activated in our brains. When we read another language, the prior knowledge in the first language is set off. Basically, what we know in one language, we also know in another.

According to Gooskens (2019) there is a concept referred to as receptive multilingualism, or RM. For example, most Latin-based languages have commonalities. Let’s look at the word “matematicas’ in Spanish. This word is considered a cognate, which means it looks the same, sounds the same, and uses similar words to the English word “mathematics.” If I am an English speaker, and I don’t speak Spanish, I am still able to read the word “matematicas” because there are similarities in language. If you don’t believe me, try it.

If you are reading this, it means you are fluent in English. Search the web and find any topic in another language, such as Spanish, French, or German. Then read that document word per word in English. What is happening is that you are technically reading that language, with English pronunciation. The pronunciation will not be perfect, but you will be close to making the sounds and reading the words.

Reading is a superpower! And when we make that bilingual reading, we double our powers.


Gooskens, C. (2019). Receptive multilingualism. Multidisciplinary perspectives on multilingualism, 149-174.

Mesa, C., & Yeomans-Maldonado, G. (2021). English and Spanish predictors of grade 3 reading comprehension in bilingual children. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 1-20.

Edith Treviño, Ed. D.

Dr. ET


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