Why Consistency & Repetition Are Key for Bilingual Kids

Enzo has made incredible progress in English, and just when I wonder if English has replaced Spanish as his first language, Enzo surprises me by saying things like “Mama, en español por favor.” (Mama, in Spanish please.) He was referring to one of his favorite TV shows, Doc McStuffins, which I usually play for him in Spanish. I was, of course, thrilled. It was very different from a meltdown he had one morning when I switched the Doc McStuffins episode that his dad had started for him from English to Spanish… he started crying and started saying “English mama English.”

I was sad at that moment, thinking that he definitely preferred everything in English now. But thinking about these two moments, I now realize that it wasn’t that Enzo preferred English to Spanish, it was that since his father had started watching the show with him, he wanted to watch it in English, as he usually does with his dad. When I changed the language on him, it threw him for a loop, and that is what made him upset. (I also know this because sometimes I change from English to Spanish when a show has already started, and he doesn’t say a word about it.)

All this to say that I am reassured that Enzo still loves Spanish, and that English hasn’t completely taken over! Just when I feel reassured about one language, the holidays are coming up and soon Enzo will be immersed in French for a whole week before I join him. I am very excited about this experience for him, and at the same time I can’t help but feel a tiny bit nervous.

As Enzo’s vocabulary increases, it is interesting to see the new obstacles he faces; for example, with masculine and feminine words. Subjects aren’t so much an issue. When we teach him new words, we say “LA manzana” or “EL carro” or “UN zapato” or “UNA media.” I realize though, that he doesn’t yet understand that masculine words have masculine adjectives and same for feminine. This, of course, is a concept he will grasp as he gets older. But for now, it is funny to hear him repeat what I say, for example: “Enzo, Mama está cansada.” (Mommy is tired.) Enzo’s reply is “No, Enzo está cansada.” Of course, I explain to him that Mama is a girl, so she is cansada, and Enzo is a boy so he is cansado… but I’m not sure he has completely picked up on it yet.

As language learning continues, I realize that I will constantly be facing new challenges and that it is incredibly important to be consistent…and of course, repeat, repeat, repeat.

{Photo by dbrekke}

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