There is never a dull moment in this bilingual home of ours. Each day my husband or papi is getting better and expanding his vocabulary to more than just “caca” or “leche,” and my son incorporates words he has heard me say into his conversations with me — things he would only get from me. Not my mamá or his tata. For instance, when Lucía was crying he said “me carga cuando llora la Lucía.” Carga being the new word, one that I use probably too much. But he took me by surprise.
I don’t know why, I decided to test my son out. I’d never done it before, but I gave him orders in English. I said “hurry up and get in the car, we have to go now.” He stopped, stared and said laughing nervously “mami, nosotros no hablamos en inglés.” I kept going in English and suddenly I noticed he had tears in his eyes and he just looked scared. I changed back to Spanish and said “Perdóname. ¿No te gusta cuando te hablo en inglés?’ And he said something that took me by complete shock, “Cuando tu hablas en inglés es como que no eres mi mami”.
Talk about a total surprise! Then he followed it up by saying “Y la Lucía llora en español por que todavía no habla.” Wow, wow, WOW!
Then I remembered years ago when my grandparents came to visit us from Chile, my Oma had commented that I was a different person when I spoke Spanish than when I spoke in English. She said my tone of voice was softer and comforting whereas in English it was harsher and less “feminine” (her words, not mine!) It also happened in London, I was speaking with a client in English only to find out later he spoke Spanish as well. He said I was a completely different person when speaking Spanish, again he mentioned something in the tone of voice. Now I’m no expert, but it makes sense.
I think language and personalities go hand in hand. My entire mamá-hijo relationship has only been in Spanish so to suddenly change now just scared my little guy. Pobrecito, it broke my heart to see the nervousness in his eyes.
What do you think, do you sound different when speaking different languages? Is it a confidence or fluency issue?