Spotlight Series Featuring Kaila Díaz

Introduce Yourself. Hi! I’m Kaila Díaz! I’m a linguist, language educator, and expectant mama living in Loudoun County! 

Tell me about your family. My husband & I are our own little family right now, ready to welcome our third member this November (Bebé Díaz is due on Thanksgiving, a child after my own heart as that is my all-time favorite holiday, I’m hoping s/he gives me time to at least enjoy my Thanksgiving dinner before making an appearance :P). We are a bilingual, bicultural family. I am a Virginia native, while my husband is originally from Baja California, Mexico! As you will soon read, my life’s work pertains to bilingualism, so it’s no surprise that bilingualism is at the heart of our home. Our language of preference is Spanglish, leaning more toward Spanish than English. When Bebé Díaz arrives, this will only continue as we raise our little bilingüito to be as bilingual as possible. 

How long have you lived or worked in NoVa? What area do you live/work? I am an Ashburn native of 26 years. No matter where I roam, I always come back. In fact, I’ve lived in more countries (four) than states (one). Despite the never-ending construction and ever-increasing traffic, Nova just feels like home.

What is your business? I run Bilingüitos, which is a language school based here in Ashburn, as well as a bilingual community for Spanish-speaking families (+ other languages) all over the U.S. Our mission is to “cultivate and celebrate bilingualism” both locally and around the globe. We do this through hosting bilingual family playdates & meet-ups, creating bilingual parenting resources (like our blog and podcast), running Spanish immersion programs, and offering language classes and private tutoring for children and adults alike.

Tell me the story of how you got started. Short version: While I didn’t come from a Spanish-speaking home, my bilingualism journey started as a toddler. My mom had me in a home daycare that just happened to be mostly Spanish-speaking, and thus I began to pick up Spanish very early on through immersion. I continued to learn in elementary school through extra-curricular weekly conversational Spanish classes offered by a local homeschool mom originally from Chile, and then through the standard foreign language requirements in middle and high school. In college and grad school (George Mason represent!) I studied linguistics and language education with my M.A. concentrated in childhood bilingualism and heritage language learners. Scattered throughout my years in higher education, I had the opportunity to live abroad in Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Perú. Since I can never quite sit still, I would always take breaks between degrees (for months — or even a year — at a time) to travel and do linguistic missionary work. During that time outside the U.S., deep in language documentation, community literacy work, and early childhood education with trilingual preschoolers, my passions aligned and my purpose was confirmed. I wanted to work with kids and with language. I could not have it any other way. 

So, in 2016, Bilingüitos was born. Partly because I wanted kids in Loudoun to have the same opportunity I did — to learn a second language through immersion from an early age. But also because I wanted Spanish-speaking families in our area to have a support system for raising bilingual kids in an English-saturated world, where the tendency is for kids to reject their home language in favor of the more alluring majority language. Our first three months of programs consisted of myself and a co-teacher (the sweet Miss Harlen who is still teaching with me today!) plus four little preschool-age students. But then we quickly started to grow, and I assembled a team of fantastic teachers and began to offer programs for various ages, from babies to adults, always with the focus of additive bilingualism and with the mission of cultivating and celebrating language in all of its forms. 

Now, we just keep growing, and in so many directions. The bilingual community is REAL and is longing for authentic connections with other like-minded families in the trenches of raising bilingual kiddos. We started GrupoPLAY, a bilingual family playgroup, in the summer of 2017 as a way to connect families and allow them to share in the trials and triumphs of bilingual parenting, and as a way for the kids to see Spanish outside the home and classroom. With the success of our programs and in-person meet-ups, we decided to also dedicate time to releasing more online resources to reach more people. In March of 2019 we started the Bilingual Parenting Podcast and a couple other resources for language-enthusiast families, like a blog and an online community. The network of bilingual families keeps expanding around the U.S., with our second GrupoPLAY launching in the Houston area this fall. As far as plans for the future? We plan to keep growing organically with our mission remaining ever-constant: to cultivate and celebrate bilingualism wherever we go!

Long version: I’m sure I’ll write it up as a blog post at some point!

What’s your favorite thing about this area? Not to get all philosophical, but honestly the best part of this area is the diversity of it. One of the reasons I loved my school (GMU) is because of how many people I met there that were so different than me. They challenged me and got me to think outside of my little bubble. I was able to ask questions and learn about other ways of life. I feel like that is representative of this entire area. We are surrounded by so many people that are different than us. There is such a wealth of cultures, languages, backgrounds, and stories in Northern VA. Who wants to live somewhere where everyone looks, dresses, talks, and thinks just like you? That’s boring! You’d never grow. Here we are able to challenge each other and learn from each other, and in doing so we realize that even though we are all so different, at the core we’re so similar. 

I feel the same way about the community that’s formed through Bilingüitos. At Bilingüitos, we consider ourselves family. We are made up of an incredible group of parents, children, and teachers that have been brought together by the shared goal of bilingualism and by an immense love for language and learning. We marvel at the diversity of nationalities, languages, cultures, and backgrounds that is represented at Bilingüitos; our differences make us unique, but they also bring us together in a celebration of humanity.

What’s something you struggle with being in this area? Okay back to the non-philosophical side of me. Sometimes it’s hard to find outdoorsy activities in this are. I know, I know, we do have a lot of great nature “close by.” The mountains are only an hour and a half away. Beaches are only two and a half hours. We could have it way worse. But I wish I could see the mountains from my house. And I wish that buying property with more than a quarter of an acre of land wasn’t basically impossible. Also, I could definitely do without all this traffic and constant construction of data centers. Anyone else?

Do you feel supported as a female entrepreneur? Honestly, yes. I feel like we’re rising up to power! #girlpower There are so many badass women out there doing amazing things that we’re starting to get noticed. And there’s such a great network and community of other girl bosses. Do I think things could be better? Sure. But I think we’re on the right track. 

What is the biggest obstacle you face as a working mother? I’m only now just entering into motherhood so I can only speak so much on this topic, but I anticipate it being a real struggle to balance my job as a business owner with my job of being a mom. As it stands, I already am in this phase where all I want to do is decorate my baby’s nursery, ogle over the sonogram pictures, and take cute baby bump photos. So when Bebé Díaz actually arrives and I have a cute sleeping (or crying) baby in my arms? Forget about it! And as the baby grows and becomes a full-fledged walking talking individual that asks for a snack every five seconds and wants me to play blocks or dolls or cars on the floor, it will get even harder! I will have to be really intentional about carving out time to be productive, staying motivated, and channeling my creative energy when I do have it. But at the same time, my career revolves around bilingual kids and bilingual parenting, so it would only make sense that I parent my own bilingual babe, right???

What advice would you give to someone just starting as a business owner? If you have a dream or an idea that you think would make a good business, then go for it. The worst thing that could happen is that it doesn’t work out and you go back to the drawing board. But if it does take off, then it will be so worth it. Be yourself and follow your passions. Your passions are what makes you you and keeps you going forward. If you choose something that doesn’t truly set you on FIRE then eventually it will feel like a ball and chain. Don’t go too broad and try to reach everyone. Find your niche and own it. You don’t need everyone in the world to be your customer or subscriber. Find your people and reach THEM. 

What do you do when you’re not working or being a mom? When I’m not in the classroom or at my computer, you can almost always find me curled up on a sunny window seat with black coffee and a good book in hand. If the weather is even just semi-decent, my go-to activity is hiking or camping with my husband, with my camera essentially attached to my eyeball, constantly scanning the trees for a good spot to put my hammock. The foodie in me will go way (and I mean WAY) out of my way for a good restaurant with a killer vibe and photogenic food & beverages (yes, I care more about the food being pretty than it being tasty… though tasty is a bonus of course!). Whenever I meet someone new, 99% of the time I find a way to sneakily direct the conversation to linguistics – whether it’s bilingualism, dialectal variation, or just learning what languages they speak, I am a LING NERD to the core!

Favorite local restaurant? Ooh, as mentioned before, I thrive off of photogenic food & restaurants. Thus I love Parrando’s, Sense of Thai, and Matchbox (all in Ashburn). All of those restaurants have killer vibes and food that is pretty AND tasty.

What do you do as a family on the weekends? Explore! We get in the car and drive. Usually west. We also hang out with a lot of family friends or couple friends with good food, good drinks, a little bonfire going, and cards.

What would you say are some of your strongest beliefs about being a mom? Oh gosh, I’m gonna cry as I sit here and type this out. I love the quote, “Speak to your children as if they are the wisest, kindest, most beautiful and magical humans on earth, for what they believe is what they will become.” It always makes me cry. We have soooo much influence over what our children believe about themselves when they are young. We have, in our responsibility, the power to either boost or destroy a child’s self-confidence and self-image. The words we say to them and the example we set for them are shaping the values and beliefs that they will take with them into adulthood. We have to be so careful in how we speak to our children and in the behavior we model for them. Not careful as in “tread lightly” or “avoid sensitive topics.” No, the complete opposite. We have to have tough conversations with our kids. We can’t be afraid to open and show them that mom and dad aren’t perfect. We have to show them that we’re all imperfect people, but that healthy, stable adults (and healthy, stable kids) can exist in community with others because no one can do this alone. (And by the way, that community is forged, not found.) The more we use our words and actions to open up, speak truth, and edify others, the better off our kids will be as they grow into contributing members of society where they believe that though they are not perfect, they can do anything. 

Tell me about someone who has influenced your decision to start your own business? Jenna Kutcher! Well actually, I started following her after I had already started my business, but since then she has had a HUGE impact on me, on how I run my business, and on the direction I want to take it. If you don’t already follow her, you need to. Like, TODAY. Also my professor Dr. Jennifer Leeman, who sparked such a fire in me about all things bilingualism & minority languages.

What might (someone) be surprised to know about you? Well by now you already know that I speak Spanish, but usually that surprises people when they meet me. 

Anything else you would like to share with the reader? Mom entrepreneurs are the best! Keep rockin’ your niche, whatever it might be!

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