Bilingual is Better
Feb
07
2009

This isn’t as easy as I thought…

Posted by:  |  Category: Daily Learning

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Photo by creo que soy yo

Photo by creo que soy yo

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!

Photo by Gaetan Lee

Photo by Gaetan Lee

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.

Photo by clspeace

Photo by clspeace

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?

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