Tuesday, December 3, 2013


When raising a child bilingual I think most parents may worry that their child may be learning more of one language than the other. I think I mentioned it before, but to me Spanish immersion is so very important because he already is immersed in English. Now that we allow a bit of TV watching, most of the shows are in English. Although, there are shows in Spanish everything else is in English. Our neighbors speak English, our friends speak English, the radio is often in English and so on. Nesta's language growth in Spanish was going great, and I knew an English language growth spurt was coming. Between 18 and 20 months Nesta was surrounded by English speakers more than ever: his grandparents, aunts and cousin. This allowed for his English language to grow extensively. 
Did this freak me out? OH YES! I knew it would happen, but when he would speak in English to me I would try so very hard not to be upset. I know that this language growth is needed, after all he is a bilingual child (two languages Cristina, two!).  
Since we arrived in Oakland I've noticed that Nesta understands that there are two or more words for one thing. I did not know when this would happen and it honestly took me by surprise. One day while at the dinner table, Nesta was banging away at the table and talking some nonsense and suddenly he looked at me and said mesa as he pointed to the table. I responded by saying si, es una mesa (yes, it is a table). Then he looked at his dad and said table. Tho which his dad responded yes, this is a table. From that day on I observed and listened to him when he spoke to his dad. Then we both realized that when he speaks to me or his abuela he speaks in Spanish, and when he speaks to his dad he speaks in English. His dad speaks in Spanish to him as well, but Nesta most often responds in English. I'm sure he's heard me speaking English, yet he speaks in Spanish to me. Now, we've noticed that when interacting with other people he has to yet decide what language to speak to them. First, these other people may not understand Nesta-speak yet so they often try both languages with him which may be confusing for him. It may also not be confusing at all, this I do not know. What I do know is that he can get his message across. While interacting with a friend of ours, Nesta wanted more of something. Nesta said more, when he got no response he said mas and when he got no response he signed more. Then he got a response. Today he did the same thing with his dad. I had never heard him say ice-cream, because we use the word helado more often. He asked his dad for mas ice-cream. Maybe Nesta thought that saying it in English to dad would have more of an effect and that he would actually get more. 
There are things that he only says in one language or the other. For example he knows the colors pink, red, green, brown, purple, blue, gray, white, and orange in Spanish. However, yellow he only says in English. I know amarillo is hard to say, and he has tried it but he likes to say yellow instead. Some thing he knows well in both languages is counting 1-10. With dad he counts in English and with mom he counts in Spanish. I have heard him say uno, dos, eight... when playing around. 
It's no joke that at this age children are like sponges and literally pick up everything, I mean EVERYTHING! It's almost dangerous, but so amazing at the same time. The things you can teach your child if you sit down for a half hour with them. 
I know around this age (23 months) toddlers are able to remember songs, and they do. Nesta can sing the Elmo song,  Itsy Bitsy Spider (in Spanish) and El Marinero Baila. I'm sure there are more songs that I cannot remember, or songs that he sings with his abuela like La Cucaracha. He also remembers dance moves and copies mannerisms. This age is just so amazing. I'm sure there are so many things that I am missing that he can now do. I just think the fact that he is speaking two languages is so amazing, and all that hard work is beginning to show. I remember feeling crazy speaking in Spanish to my baby. I knew it was the right thing to do, but for some reason I felt odd. I felt odd because my husband couldn't understand what I was saying. I felt odd because I had to translate what I had just said to my 2 month old so that his dad would be included, so that I didn't feel alone. It sounds weird, but it was weird. 
I've talked to many parents who started speaking a language other than English to their children and then gave up because it was hard. It sounds silly, but it is hard. It still is hard. It will only get harder when the reading and writing begin.  
Now, I have to do my research for dual-language schools in Oakland.... didn't I just do this ? :D

1 comment:

  1. Me encanta lo que estás haciendo, Cris... Yo, por ejemplo, no me imagino hablando en inglés (aquí en México) a mi sobrino o mi bebé... Quizás unas cuantas frases o canciones, sí... Pero, ¿todo el tiempo? Se necesita valor, creo... Para enfrentar a todos alrededor quienes pensarían que estoy loca :)
    Me encanta lo que estás logrando, y que lo registres... Sigue con el mismo entusiasmo! Nesta te lo va a agradecer :)