The bell rings and Santiago runs to get the door shrieking with excitement. He’s been waiting all afternoon for friends of ours to come over for dinner so he can play with their 7-year-old son.
“Hi, Liam!” he says and hugs him as soon as I open the door.
“Hi, Santiago!” Liam responds and off they run to play with Vanessa who’s in the playroom in the basement.
A bit later, they all come up to the kitchen where I’m having a conversation with Liam’s mother. All of sudden, I find myself stopping mid-sentence when I hear Santiago speaking English.
“I can’t see,” Santiago says while Liam and Vanessa look at pictures on someone’s iPhone.
While this is obviously no big deal at all considering Santiago is 3 years old, it is a huge deal for me because I’ve never heard my boy say anything in English beyond “hi” and “bye”. Ok, maybe the obligatory “What’s your name?” and “How old are you?”, but that’s only because we practiced them at home before he entered preschool.
I continue observing my son as they move from the iPhone to playing with a cheap yo-yo I just got at the grocery store.
“It’s my turn,” my son protests for a chance to spin the yo-yo.
Although he’s not having full-fledged conversations in English like he has in Spanish, I’m in awe of what’s happening right in front of my very own eyes. Both my husband and I make comments throughout the night about all the new phrases he’s learned in English in preschool.
Having gone through the same process with his younger sister Vanessa, it’s not like I ever thought it wasn’t going to happen, but I’m still amazed. Mostly because he only goes to preschool three times a week, which means he only spends about 15 hours a week immersed in English. And yet, he’s well on his way to becoming bilingual.
I know this not only from interactions like the ones I just described, but also because he understands pretty much everything that is said to him in English. He might not be able to answer in complete sentences just yet, but he doesn’t miss a beat when someone talks to him in English.
I’m sharing this with you today because I’m incredibly proud of my Santiago, but also because I think it serves as proof that learning to speak English is impossible to avoid when you live in this country. In other words, all those parents who worry that using the mL@H method to raise their children bilingual will put them at a disadvantage in English need to remember that English is everywhere… it’s inescapable. The only language we truly have to worry about is Spanish, the minority one.