Half English Half Spanish

My wife, my son and I spent the weekend with my family. Along with my parents, some other relatives came and stayed as well. It was a great time filled with food, laughs and trips down memory lane. Naturally, questions arose about our son and how we speak to him in Spanish. One interesting question I was asked is stated was “What are you going to do when he speaks half English half Spanish sentences?”

This caught me a little off guard. I just immediately responded “We will encourage him and tell him he is the best little talker in the world.” I wasn’t really sure what other kind of answer could possibly be given. It got me thinking though… people who don’t understand bilingualism, well, don’t understand bilingualism. They see it as a ‘problem’ if the child code switches or goes through a transitional phase where they mix up languages; English grammar with Spanish words or vice-a-versa.

The reality is that there is nothing wrong with that.

The follow-up question was along the lines of “You are going to be the only one who understands him.” I can see their point with regards to the communication issues, and perhaps this is a proverbial bridge we will cross, however this is hardly a deterrent from choosing the bilingual lifestyle. Difficulties will most likely present themselves, and these difficulties will lead to new opportunities to learn and grow as a family. Will my English-only parents be confused at times when we are talking as a family or they are trying to talk to my son? Probably. Will it be that big of a deal? No. Frankly, I’m confused about half of the time I’m talking to children anyway.

Our little guy will learn to figure it out. He will grow, develop, and home in on who speaks what language, when and to what degree. In fact, this may happen sooner than later! A recent post of mine talks about how bilingual children start deciding which language is which as early as six or seven months old! This is the beauty of children growing up with two or more languages; they just get it. They learn very quickly what they need to do to be understood. They have to, really, as they don’t have a whole lot of other options!

Has anyone else experienced these types of questions or comments? What was the situation and how did you respond? Comment below and share your experience.

Jeffrey Nelson - livingbilingual.comJeffrey Nelson blogs about being bilingual, raising bilingual children, and all things bilingual at Living Bilingual.com . He and his wife, Gyovanna, are currently raising their 11-month old child, Liam, as a bilingual in English/Spanish. Jeff loves the fact that his son will grow up bilingual and bicultural, a long way removed from his own past growing up in North Dakota; the antithesis of the bicultural childhood.

{Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Nelson}

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