Why is it that even though you’ve read tons of books and sites on the subject, and have freakishly asked all your friends-who already went through it-for advice and have been reassured that it’s totally normal, you still panic when it starts happening to you? OK, here’s the issue: my daughter, Camila, started going to daycare last November for two days a week. She was 15 months at the time. Until then, her primary source of language-learning was at home with Mamá and Papá, both native Spanish speakers, using the mL@H (Minority Language at Home) method – not because someone told us to, just because that’s what comes natural to us.
The point is that at 15 months, Camila started spitting out words like crazy, exactly at the same time she started daycare. And with this came our worries that being exposed to English just when she was starting to learn Spanish, would confuse her to the point that my husband’s nightmares would become a reality. You see, ever since she was born, he has nightmares where his daughter asks him to take her for a ride in his troka to the marketa. So you can imagine how important an issue her acquisition and fluency of both Spanish and English is in our home. We don’t want her to just understand Spanish and speak back to us in English; we want her to be able to communicate with her grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins in Mexico and El Salvador in their language. We don’t want her to feel embarrassed because she speaks Spanish but speaks it differently. Anyway, it’s just sort of a turn off for us even though we completely understand how it can easily happen and don’t judge it in that way.
The Más/More Challenge
The three amazing ladies that take care of Camila, speak Spanish to her per my request. However, she spends the day surrounded by English-speaking toddlers and, I’m sad to say, she prefers to learn from them than from her Mamá. I had no idea peer-influence started at such an early age!
I was so excited she finally started saying “más¨ when she wanted something (um…all the time!). Then, one day, ¨más¨ started sounding like ¨mooo.¨ And that’s all we would hear (yes, all the time!): ¨MOOOO.¨ That’s when it hit us that our bilingual journey had truly started. She was learning ¨more¨ at daycare and ¨más¨ at home. She knew that both meant the same thing, but she was confused as to which one to use. So it started sounding something like: ¨moo…má!¨. Hilarious. Then I started panicking thinking that we were confusing her. That’s when all that research and advice went momentarily flying out the window.
I’m happy to report that, three months later, she still uses both words, but already figured out that at home it’s ¨más¨ and at daycare it’s ¨more.¨ I still need to keep reminding myself that even if she does seem confused, it’s all part of the process of her sorting out both languages and that she is fully, innately capable of doing it on her own.
Have you had moments of doubt in your bilingual journey? How did you handle them?
Our Maxwell Leon is 8 months old and on his way to becoming trilingual! His first word was aba, which in Hebrew means daddy, but he has also said pa and ma, so there’s English and Spanish in there too! We are committed to having Maxwell express the richness of his multilayered cultural heritage, and sing songs to him in spanish, english and hebrew. We spent a month while I was on maternity leave, with my husband’s Argentine family in Buenos Aires, and I took Spanish classes at a local cafe, so that I will be able to converse with our baby in Spanish. Papi speaks with Maxi in Spanish at home, which we have heard is important in forming a foundation in another language. Am excited about this website and the ways it may support our efforts to celebrate all of our uniqueness and what we share in common…
Ana it is a beauiful thing when you realize all the amazing things that your daughter is capable of doing. When she responds to “de nada” when you say “gracias” or to “morguelcom” when someone says “thank you” the first time that we heard that one we both were in amazement.
I am glad to report that we have arrived to the inquisitive phase and everything is “y por que?????? so far no “why’s”of course that can change in the next hour or so!!!!!
Vanessa, Marianna: Thanks for your comments. It’s encouraging to hear how other parents are handling it and the joys this journey brings.
I can’t wait until Camila can say “morguelcom”..beautiful!
Ha, ha!!! I like that, “morguelcom.” I’ve been trying to figure out exactly how I would write out how my daughter Vanessa says that – and you totally nailed it, Marianna!! My husband and I couldn’t believe it either when we heard her say that, especially because she knew – we didn’t teach her – to say it in response to someone saying “thank you.” We figured she learned it en “la escuelita”, the preschool she goes to once a week for four hours!!! It’s truly amazing to see their learning potential at such a young age…
I try to speak only Spanish to our kids and my wife (who is a gringa) only speaks English to them. We have a Spanish nanny who we’ve asked to only speak to the kids in Spanish. Our eldest is 15 months old and he’s a little behind in expressive language. Since he’s not saying much I’ve been falling into the trap of speaking to him more in English… after looking through your blog it’s reiterated to me to keep speaking in Spanish to him. His receptive language is great in both language. He can point to his head or his cabeza, his tummy or his bariga and show me his tongue or his lengua.
@Steph-You’re already doing a great job…and with three at that! It’s a bit tougher when it’s a OPOL (one parent one language) household, but in no time it will become the norm for all of you and you won’t even question your decision. It means a lot to us to be able to inspire you in any way.
Congratulations on the blog….the little ones are indeed very capable of learning both languages easily. We did, after all…It’s really up to us and it’s hard when our brains work in English even though our hearts speak Spanish.
It’s an interesting journey…and an interesting story.
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