I am not sure how to explain my son’s latest language development phase, except to say that he now knows he speaks two languages. He has always responded to two and spoken two, but only in the past few weeks has he started naming Spanish and English as separate entities. I am fascinated by his sudden realization, because this is yet another example of something kids pick up yet are never explicitly taught – a reminder that we are born to learn.
When Isaiah answers me in English, I jokingly pretend I don’t understand him. He rolls his eyes and says “Come on, Mommy.”
When the English-only speakers in his life ask him how to say something in Spanish, he translates with no problem.
Most interesting is when he unexpectedly hears someone speaking Spanish, or when I turn on a movie in Spanish, and he says “¡Mira, español!”
As I have mentioned in previous posts, I am envious of those who grow up with two or more vocabulary pools, grammatical structures, conceptual expanses. Even though my amorcito recognizes the two categories of his life, he sees neither as intrusive nor confusing. I still wonder every day what it must be like to acknowledge such a distinction, but not have to think about it. Especially now that, for Isaiah, Spanish is a thing to be spoken about rather than just a mode of communication, I keep expecting some sort of confusion to arise.
Despite my über-logical tendencies, the facts I have learned about bilingualism from sources like SpanglishBaby and from my own observation remain counterintuitive. New developments, such as this sudden labeling of Spanish and English, can throw me off course. I wonder if this is the beginning of the end – the end of my child’s simple input and output days. Now, my fear tells me, is when he will start forming negative opinions of Spanish because he sees it as something that stands alone, rather than a mode that he enters with ease. Now, the true battle begins.
Even when I see that this lovely linguistic experiment is working, that my hijito is already an expert at moving effortlessly from one language to another, I can’t seem to shake the doubts. They have most likely seeped into my conscience from outside sources – the fervent nonbelievers in my life – and now lurk in the shadows that always lie behind success.
Those of you with older bilingual children may have already seen them transition to talking about Spanish and English. Perhaps my worries are unfounded. I’m sure, though, that even if you all reassured me, I would have to fight my own skepticism. Parenting magnifies the consequences of making unpopular choices, but the greatest magnification is internal and the greatest consequences, imagined.