Editor’s note: We’re spending this week celebrating dads raising bilingual kids with guest posts written by them in honor of Father’s Day. We love having the dad’s perspective and hope this series encourages other papis to share their stories with us. Although this last post wasn’t written by a dad, it was written by a mom thanking her husband for keeping Spanish alive at home.
As a “gringa” who didn’t start studying Spanish until the age of 13 and whose “road less traveled” led to becoming a high school Spanish teacher, I know what a challenge it can be for teenagers to acquire a language at a later stage in life. What I have learned over the years is that children soak up languages and it’s so fun to watch!
My half-cuban husband and I have decided that embracing the language and culture of our English and Spanish backgrounds is a priority for our now 2-year-old daughter and her possible future siblings. At first, I worried a little (ok, a lot!) about how to implement this plan and decided to read a lot about the challenges that predominantly English-speaking families have with the integration of second languages in their homes. What statistically works best didn’t actually work for us; we both, instead speak a rare form of “Spanglish” that is fun, loving and somehow, catching on!
This post, in honor of father’s day, is a “shout out” to my husband for keeping the Spanish alive in our house. He uses his awesome combination of familial-cuban Spanish from his paternal grandparents and the madrileño slang we picked up studying abroad in college and american classroom Spanish to continuously inspires me to just simply keep speaking Spanish to Isabel, without over thinking it or worrying.
Richard’s technique is notable because of an awesome combination of fun and silly…
He jokes around with our daughter in Spanish, sings invented songs and genuinely and sweetly asks her “preguntas” about her day, so naturally, and all in Spanish. Sometimes, my evil teacher ego emerges and I correct his Tú vs. Usted commands or his accidental confusion of the preterite vs. imperfect, but he always remains patient and takes time to teach all that he can.
In addition to speaking Spanish, we are teaching through love something else far more important than linguistics: food! If you’ve had Cuban food, I need not say more. If you haven’t yet, get out there are try some Maduros or Ropa Vieja! Cubans make a strong argument for culinary adventures. Thanks to Richard for bringing the adobo and plátanos into my life, and with it, a love for language, culture and exploration in general.
Sometimes we think about our crazy Spanish usage and ask ourselves if what we are doing is pure crazy or at least a bit awesome. But, a Spanish “dicho” states that if you know another language, you live twice. If we can double the joy or adventure in our daughters life, then that’s a fantastic feat!
Thank you “Richito”, for keeping the (cuban/madrileño/gringo) Spanish alive, happy and fun in our house!