Bilingual is Better

Photo credit: Pavel Losevsky

  1. That it would make me have to think really really hard sometimes to find the right words.
  2. That when asked her favorite fruits, my toddler would respond: blueberries, peaches, tamales, burritos.
  3. That her favorite bedtime song would be an improvised song whose lyrics are “Mama te ama, Papi te ama, —-te ama…” and which has as many verses as people and animals she knows.
  4. That “nalgas” is much funnier than “bottom” or even “butt” to say and point out.
  5. How often I would hear “más” “más” “más.”
  6. How hard it would be to get many Spanish-speakers to speak to her in Spanish.
  7. That she would remind me to speak Spanish, by asking “how you say en español?”
  8. The many Spanish words I would learn right along with her, like “durazno” and “arándano.”
  9. How challenging it would be to create a need for her to speak Spanish.
  10. That Oso Pardo would become one of our favorite books.

For the first several months, I only spoke English to my baby. I remember thinking about speaking in Spanish, but in those early weeks and months, it just seemed like such a big effort when she couldn’t even keep her eyes straight (and from a lack of sleep, neither could I!).  It would cross my mind, and then I’d let it go and just focus on getting through the days and nights with an infant.  I can’t pinpoint the moment when I decided to speak to her in Spanish, that it was an effort worth making.  I do remember my husband really wanting me to do it and finding that encouraging.

But I am so glad that I decided to do it! Half the time it’s actually Spanglish we speak around here, but that’s a world’s difference from just English. Often the time to look up a word I don’t know would so interrupt the conversation that I just use the English word. I look up the word later and save it for next time. Eventually, the topic will come up again and she’ll learn the new word. One of the more interesting developments lately is that at nearly two and half, she has started asking me how to say things in Spanish. Then, we look it up together and learn!  If we have time, I call one of our relatives so we can ask over the phone, which is much more fun than just typing it in.

There is still so much I have to learn about teaching her Spanish, and luckily, SpanglishBaby exists and is my main source for continued education.  I see now that while it is a lot more effort, that it’s also a lot of fun.  I also have found a lot of motivation knowing how many of us are choosing to give this gift to our kids.

In a week or so, I’ll be having mi segunda hija, and one of the things  I plan to do a little differently this time around is to speak to her en español right from the start. Now, I’ll have a little helper to get me through the long days of early infancy and to remind me that this gig is a fun one.  Now that I know a bit better what to expect (good good things!) I know that I’ll be more prepared to jump into bilingual parenting.

What are some of the things you didn’t expect? Pleasant surprises? Challenges?  I’d love to know!

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