Bilingual is Better

Since we have moved our daughter from a Spanish immersion daycare to one where English is spoken 100% of the time, we have noticed a few interesting things happening.

We have noticed that she will try using English phrases, like “get a diaper, please” in response to our Spanish request, “Agarra un pañal, por favor.” In fact, she frequently uses the following phrase, “No, mami es… I’m sorry” in response to my “lo siento.” This kind of dialogue extends to naming objects as well. For example, she shared with me upon picking her up from school, “Mami, mami, estaba volando en los swings.” I, of course, would affirm her statement by saying, “Te gustan los comlumpios, verdad?” Her response, as you might have guessed, “No mami es… swings.”

In previous posts I have mentioned how speaking Spanish is my right and by speaking it to my daughter 100% without accommodating to those who may not understand us is also the way I exhibit resiliency against an ever-evasive English society. My nena’s exposure to English this past month has increased to over 50% of her day as a result of attending an “English” daycare. Though I anticipated the experience being extremely hard emotionally; she has settled in happily with her teachers and peers.

As she’s developed her English speaking skills this past month, I started to notice that what I was researching about language acquisition as a doctoral student and what I was practicing with my daughter was extremely contradicting. Essentially, metalinguistic awareness (language awareness) is at the core of my research interests as a doctoral student. I found myself examining how the flow of two or more languages in the dual language classroom is and can be beneficial for developing an awareness of the diverse ways language works, yet contradicting what I was actually practicing with my own daughter. This started to bother me immensely to the point that I forced myself to reflect about what I believed to be true about language acquisition and what I was actually doing with my daughter.

Since reflecting on the disconnect between what I was researching and what I was modeling, we have been engaging in conversations about how many objects, people, and places have more than one name in English and Spanish. The experience has been amazing because I think she is also starting to realize that she speaks two languages. When I walk into her classroom to pick her up I can hear her attempting to communicate in English with her peers and when she notices that I’ve arrived she switches to Spanish.

Ultimately, I decided to connect theory to practice as a mother raising a multilingual daughter. Instead of constantly reiterating into “correct” or “puro” español the same statement she said in either English or in a beautiful mix of Spanish and English, I have been focusing on developing a cognitive skill that will benefit her academically, socially, and culturally: metalinguistic awareness.

{Photo by greg westfall.}

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