I Have a Confession to Make

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Photo credit: Phil Scoville

It’s starting to happen. English is slowly creeping into our house. My almost four-year-old is consistently using more and more English. She never fully speaks solely in English to me, but whereas before she’d say an English word or two in a sentence, lately she’s been known to say full sentences. I know there’s nothing wrong with this and I was expecting this would start happening, but it seems like it’s happening a bit faster than I anticipated.

I can’t believe I was once worried that my daughter would be at a disadvantage if I only spoke Spanish to her. In the last year, I’ve stood by fascinated by the amount of English she’s learned on her own, in preschool and just playing with her friends because, as you probably remember, we use the mL@H method, so we don’t speak English at home – in theory, at least.

But now, I have a confession to make, something that I hadn’t really paid attention to before because, apparently, I’ve been doing it unconsciously. While it is 100 percent true that we only speak Spanish to our children (with the occasional exception by my husband who still thinks it’s kind of cute to exchange a few sentences in English with our daughter), I just recently realized that lately, my husband and I have been using a lot more English when we talk to each other. ¡Que horror!

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like we’ve never done that. I mean, even though we profess to use the mL@H method, we do some code-switching, (never when speaking to the kids, though). Yet, what I’ve been noticing lately is that we’ll just have full-fledged conversations in English. I might have not been worried about this when Vanessa was a toddler, but now that she’s speaking non-stop and is oh so aware of all conversations around her, I’ve noticed that sometimes she’ll say something in English in direct response (or as a commentary) to something her father’s saying to me (or vice versa) if it’s somehow related to her.

Ever since this started happening, I’ve been paying closer attention to the language my husband and I use and I’ve been amazed by how quickly we’ve been unconsciously changing to English as our preferred method of communication. I’m not really sure where this is coming from, except for the fact that I recently went back to work full-time and I’m surrounded by English all day long, whereas before I was home with my children and our world revolved around Spanish.

While I’m proud that we only speak to our children in Spanish, (it wouldn’t be natural for us to do it any other way), I am aware of how what’s happening in the grownup’s language usage in our household can affect not only their exposure to their minority language, but also their perceived need to speak it.

Now that we’re aware of what’s going on, my husband and I have promised each other we’ll work hard to change it. We’re supposed to remind each other to use Spanish when the kids are with us by uttering the word “español” if we notice we’re turning to English. (Let me tell you, it’s easier said than done. It takes a lot more effort than you’d think.) Plus, since Vanessa LOVES any opportunity to win, we’ve also turned it into a little game. Whenever she hears us speak English, she’s supposed to yell out: “¡inglés! ¡Perdiste!” She thinks this is super funny, until she’s the one that loses, of course!

Are any of you out there going through something similar? How are you dealing with it? Or, do you have any suggestions for what we should do?

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