Bilingual is Better

resolutions for the new year

There’s so much floating around the internet about New Year’s Resolutions this time of year! I don’t tend to make resolutions, but I do love setting a few goals for myself and getting myself organized. As for my boys’ bilingualism, we’ve been chugging along the status quo has been working for us, but I thought I’d take stock of things this January and maybe formally set a few goals for myself in this area, too.

So here you have it, my list of resolutions for the year:

  1. Number one is obvious:  keep talking to my boys in Spanish, all the time. They are 7 now, and I still speak to them — and they answer me — in Spanish.
  2. Rule number one notwithstanding, I need to limit how much I speak to them in English. I do this in two specific kinds of situations. One, I’ll occasionally speak to them in English when we are around other English speakers in order to be polite, and I do so perhaps more than I should. This year I will try to be more mindful of this, because I’m aware of the fact that it can be a slippery slope and it isn’t always necessary. The second reason I sometimes speak to them in English is much more non-negotiable. My boys, like many autistic children, are often better prepared to deal with certain situations if they can use a script, or a stock question or answer. In the past year, I’ve often found it necessary to provide them with different scripts. I don’t want to leave any room for ambiguity by providing the answer in Spanish and letting them interpret it into English, I want to give them the exact words they should use. We often tweak our scripts together and they suggest good alternatives, but they’re always in English.
  3. Keep up with Spanish school on Saturdays. This is an easy one, for now. They’re in their second year there, and still love it. They even think it’s special they have Spanish school and their other classmates don’t.
  4. Keep speaking Spanish to the dog. A quirky Boston Terrier puppy is the newest addition to our family, and I speak to her in Spanish. Since I do, I’ve noticed the boys do, too…it’s funny hearing them use the same diminutives, commands and regañadas with her that I do. I don’t know that I’d recommend going to the extreme of getting a dog to motivate your children to speak a second language, but it’s a nice side benefit.
  5. Keep my technology close. I’m hoping to find a few good, age-appropriate TV shows in Spanish, though the boys are much more into video games this year. The iPhone is still one of my closest allies. I have a great bilingual dictionary on it and look up vocabulary for my boys when they ask me how to say something in Spanish, several times a day. Their interests are becoming so specific that I often can’t come up with the words they are looking for — piranha shoal, pyroclastic flow — on my own.
  6. Take advantage of more cultural events in our area. We’ll see how I do with this one — again, autism makes it kind of tricky. Last year I came home with a flier for a Hispanic Heritage Month festival and excitedly showed it to the boys. Music! Singing! Traditional foods and games! After I finished telling them about it, Secondo said, simply, “No quiero ir. Habrá mucha gente y demasiado ruido.” And when I think back to the days of speech delays and unexplained tantrums and remember feeling like I would give anything if only they could tell me what was wrong in any language, well, I’m just so blown away and happy that he can express himself so clearly that I respect his wishes. Sometimes they can be persuaded if I prepare them in advance (our recent ice skating outing, for example, was a huge hit), but I tend not to push the issue.
  7. Find more good books in Spanish. We had such a wealth of wonderful picture books in Spanish when they were going through that stage, but they’re moving on to chapter books now, and though we have many translations of English classics, I’d love to find more books written in Spanish for older children. And although they’re really into nonfiction, I feel like none of the books we have in Spanish can compete with the many beautiful National Geographic books of facts and atlases we own.
  8. Give myself some credit. We all should. I know it’s easy to think that I’m not doing enough, that there’s always something else I could do to ensure my boys bilingualism, that I know people who are doing more. But I’m doing what I can, and so far, so good.

{photo by Esparta}

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