Growing Up Bilingual

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My Baby Words

I’ve always been a sucker for old photographs, letters, diaries, lists — anything that will somehow give me an insight into my and my family’s past. My parents were pretty good about saving stuff like that in an old wooden trunk which has seen better days and is currently in my sister’s possesion.

So I was absolutely ecstatic when just a few days ago my mom handed me a small brown envelope with something I’d never seen before — or maybe I had a long time ago, but I’d never really paid attention to until now. As any good mother would do, she used to keep a running list of the things I used to say (and understand) when I first started speaking. (In fact, she’s such a good mother that she’s done the same for both my children, since apparently I lack in this arena, ja! Thank God for good mom’s, no?).

The list is full of typical baby words such as agua, mamá, papá, toma, dame, etc. But what I found most interesting was the list also includes a series of phrases/commands I understood in English by the time I was 20 months old. Wait. They spoke to me in English? What?

I’d always known my parents were bilingual. In fact, when we were real little, they used to speak English to each other when they didn’t want us to understand what they were saying. Of course, as we got a bit older, and became bilingual our selves, their little game no longer worked!

I’d also always thought I started learning English when I went to preschool, but apparently I was wrong. According to my mom, my dad liked speaking English to me, just like he’d done with my older sister who was born in Miami and was exposed to the language until they moved back to Peru when she was 9 months.

How awesome is that? And how awesome is it that my mom actually kept all the word lists? (¡Gracias, mami! :) ).

Now it’s your turn, how old were you when you became bilingual? Or, do you know when a second language was introduced in your life? Please share with us, we’d love to know!

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