“Mamá, yo solo hablo inglés,” were the words I had been dreading for four years and that inevitably came out of my girl’s mouth a few days ago.
Did you catch the irony in it?
She said “Mom, I only speak English” but she said it in Spanish!
I calmly responded to her, en español, “Ah, ¿si? Y, ¿Porqué?”(“Oh, yeah? Why?”)
She responde, en espanol, “Porque cuando estoy sola solo hablo en inglés.” (“Because when I’m alone I only speak English”)
Okay, fair enough. Right? It still bugged the heck out of me and I”ll tell you why.
She was very upset with me when she told me this. It had been a rough morning for her and we were already running late to preschool. We were in the car when this lovely conversation occurred and she was not in a good mood at all. So, she hit me where she knew it would hurt.
For the last month her English has clearly taken off and she is using it more and more at home. I am thrilled that she is at a great bilingualism stage where she can handle both languags well. She goes to an all-English Montessori school and spends a good chunk of her day there, so it’s to be expected she’s using English when she plays, sings and talks about school-related things.
However, both my husband and I have hit the panic button and have been telling her more and more at home that we only speak Spanish. We’ve been repeating it a lot, so much so that she’s obvioulsy grasped it’s a pasion point for me. This became obvious when she told me she only speaks English; like that, so out of the blue, and while speaking Spanish.
Am I crazy to think we’ve hit the rebellion point or are very close to it?
So now, I’ve stepped back and am reevaluating our approach to the Spanish at home rule. I need to be careful that it’s not a mandate, but something she will want. I need to make it so much a part of her life that she, all on her own, will not let go of it.
She still prefers to be read in Spanish and to watch movies in Spanish.
My new plan of attack includes:
- Continue speaking to her only in Spanish at home. All the time. No exceptions.
- When she does reply in English, I will rephrase what she said in Spanish and encourage her to repeat it.
- Read, read, read a lot more and in Spanish. She’s getting plenty of exposure to English-language books at school.
- Hang out more with our Spanish-speaking amigos which we have plenty of, but live all over the Greater L.A. area and it’s getting harder and harder to meet up as often as we’d all like.
- Skype a lot more frequently with her tía, prima and abuelita in El Salvador and family in Mexico. She crazy adores her cousin who’s 2 years older than her. They spent two weeks together in LA during the summer and a whole month in El Salvador last year. Everytime I tell her “Si no hablas español, no vas a poder platicar con tu prima,” (“If you don’t speak Spanish, you won’t be able to talk to your cousin.”) she immediately switches to Spanish. That’s my Ace right there.
- Continue on our search for the ideal dual language immersion program. This point is not up for negotiation. Starting next year she will attend a DL program even if it means we have to move to another neighborhood.
- Travel to Mexico and El Salvador more often! I am lucky that I’ve carved out a life where I can take my laptop with me anywhere and work from there. It does have its implications, but it’s worth it. This Holiday season we’re spending three weeks in El Salvador and my girl will stay at my sister’s house so she can spend a lot of play time with her cousin…en español!
Share: Have you had to deal with the bilingual rebellion stage yet? What did you learn from it and what tips can you share? I’d love to know I’m not alone….I know I’m not!