Bilingual is Better
Photo by molajen

Photo by molajen

Recently, as I was putting on extremely red lipstick in preparation for one of those rare occasions when my husband and I reply “yes” to an adult party invitation, Vanessa – who was running around like a chicken with its head cutoff from my bathroom to my room – stopped dead in her tracks and looked up at me in admiration. She has just started to ask what things are called by pointing to whatever and asking: llama? Short for: cómo se llama esto? Anyhow, I thought about it for a split second – lápiz de labio? Labial? – and then I blurted out LIP-STICK. She looked intently at my lips – as she always does when she wants to learn how to pronounce something – and repeated: PIP-TIC and ran off, God knows where, shrieking.

This – my choice of words, not the shrieking – got me thinking about how even though I’m supposed to speak only Spanish to my daughter in this mission to raise her bilingual, I am guilty of using certain words in English for their simplicity and ease in memorizing them. Am I doing something wrong? Sometimes it’s just that I simply don’t remember the word in Spanish; other times it’s that the word in Spanish is much longer and therefore harder for a two-year-old to pronounce.

It’s easier in English…

Here’s a list of some other words that seem to rise to my lips much faster in English than in Spanish:

  • raccoon = mapache (I don’t remember the last time I said: “Mira ese mapache“.)
  • skunk = zorrillo/mofeta
  • blueberries = arándanos
  • snowman = muñeco (hombre) de nieve (See what I mean about English’s simplicity?)

I imagine the list will continue to grow along with Vanessa’s vocabulary. Should I be really concerned with this? Am I making a big mistake?

According to one of the mothers from Vanessa’s bilingual playgroup, whenever this happens to her, she just tells her daughter that at the present moment she doesn’t remember how to say the word in Spanish. And then, she tries to remember to look it up or ask someone so she can eventually tell her daughter the word in Spanish. Well, in theory, that could work…but Vanessa is relentless in her search for new words. She won’t give up which means I kind of have to have an answer right then and there.

So, what do you think? Should I run to the dictionary every time I’m faced with this dilemma or is it really no big deal to do this? Does this happen to you? What words are in your list?

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