My daughter has been attending her dual immersion school in Spanish for almost three months now and I can honestly say she’s made a lot of progress. I think the most noticeable improvement has been in her increased self-esteem and the value she’s now given to speaking Spanish. She tries much harder to complete sentences in Spanish and doesn’t get frustrated when I nudge her to speak it.
My husband keeps insisting that she’s speaking way too much English and he’s not sure she’ll be speaking fluent Spanish with us anymore. I always disagree and ask him to perceive the small details that have changed. Things like her asking us to put the Spanish option on when she watches Phineas and Ferb or Doc McStuffins on Disney Junior, something that was seriously not happening months, even days, before school started. She also asks us which of her books are in Spanish so that we can read those for her at night. Not only that, I notice many new words that were not part of her vocabulary that she’s now throwing in the mix of her mostly-Spanglish phrases.
And that’s what her “language” really is right now at this stage – a mix of Spanish and English – but not the kind to shudder at. What I mean is that the words she uses are said correctly in each language, she’s just mixing words from both languages into one sentence.
I was noticing this a lot more this weekend after her friend came to play. It always seems like it takes her a while to switch back from English-only mode when she’s with friends, to trying-to-speak-Spanish mode with her mom and dad. At that moment it dawned on me that every time I’d make her repeat in Spanish whatever she was so excited to tell me about (and she’s notorious for non-stop chatter!), she had to make an effort to “grab” the words she needed.
What I realized is that even though she’s making tremendous progress at school, and her love for Spanish and the fact she’s bilingual is at an all-time high, we still need to make a lot more effort at making sure Spanish is front and center in her life and her brain. Her receptive Spanish-language skills are perfect, yet she’s lacking in her expressive skills.
My conclusion of this is that we definitely need to immerse her a lot more in situations where she will need to express herself in Spanish. She needs to use the words much more without having to think about them. I know they are all there because they eventually come out, but it needs to become a fluid process.
I’m not worried about it happening, but it did make me realize that raising a bilingual child is definitely a work-in-progress that requires many tools in the toolbox. Not the same tools will work for all since every family is different and unique, but we do all need an arsenal of tricks until we find what works best for our kids.
Share with me in the comments below what you do that works the best. What bilingualism stage is your child at?