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Monday, June 13, 2011

Monday Moments: Talking

Speaking Spanish with Baby

I'm trying to keep up with Capital Mom's Monday Moments themes. She writes these beautiful narratives about her kids--little snippets from her life that seem like they are pulled out of a novel that every mother would love to read. I'm not as eloquent as her, but I love how she shares, and I want to be able to share our moments as well.

When Baby T was a baby, I was so excited once he began to communicate. When he started waving “bye-bye” and doing the sign for milk, I was ready for him to communicate more. It’s frustrating when your baby cries and you don’t know what they want. I couldn’t wait until he started talking.

I speak fluent Spanish because my parents are from Argentina, and I grew up speaking both Spanish and English simultaneously. It is a gift to know another language, and I always said I would give my kids that gift. But when Baby T started talking—and he started pretty early, well before he was a year old—I didn’t want to do anything to hamper his communication. I didn’t want to confuse him with sounds and words from a different language, so I didn’t speak much Spanish to him.

At his one-year well visit, the pediatrician asked, “Does he have a word or two?” He had at least eighty.

At his two-year well visit, the pediatrician asked, “Does he have twenty words or so?” He has hundreds. We can carry on full conversations. Right now, in fact, he’s sitting on my lap, watching “Curious George” and telling me that George has a duck in his hand; the ducks are hatching; and there are three ducks on the TV. It’s such a relief to be able to fully communicate with him these days.

But he doesn’t speak Spanish. Or, I should say, it’s limited. There are things I have always said to him in Spanish. When he asks where daddy is: “Está en el trabajo.” When he asks where Sully is: “Está en casa.” So he can say those things. And I just taught him that motorcycle is “moto.” He likes that one. And he asks for his “leche bottle.” And that’s about it.

I want to be better with Little M. Since I’m home with him, I know I have the opportunity to speak Spanish when we’re alone together. I want my kids to have the ability to speak another language; it’s gotten me to places I never would have otherwise reached in my life.

I would love to hear tips from other moms out there who speak another language themselves: Do you speak it with your kids? How did you start? Do you have a specific routine or time of day that you speak another language? Once they are older, do you feel the need to explain what you’re saying, or do you just talk, hoping your child will eventually pick it up?

Because at this point, Baby T just looks at me like I’m crazy when I speak Spanish to him.


Capital Mom said... Best Blogger Tips

That you so much for joining in today! And the very kind words up top. :-)

I am always amazed by parents who each speak a different language to their kids. There is a family at our park and the mom speaks French to the child, the dad Spanish and then the parents speak English to each other! I think I would forget which language to use!

It sounds like you are on the right track. At that age kids are so excited to learn and introducing new words, in any language, will be exciting.

Lara said... Best Blogger Tips

We speak English at home but sent our eldest to French school this year. It was confusing for him at first bit after a year he's quite fluent. I think it's just a matter of exposing him to it... by talking, explaining, and maybe with books and tv too?

Good luck!

mama.rye said... Best Blogger Tips

We are not bilingual, but I would probably be inclined to do some "echoing" when I spoke. Why not ask some questions or make some statements in both languages? As moms, we repeat ourselves so much anyway, maybe try alternating the language, in one sitting? In a few months you will have a walking and climbing little creature again.

(Yes, I looked up how to say this!")

Mommy: Little M, we sit in chairs.
Little M: Blank stare
Mommy: nos sentamos en las sillas!
Little M: No!
Mommy: Please sit.
Little M: sit?
Mommy: Por favor, sientente!

Or something like that...

Just a thought. :)


Trista Teeter said... Best Blogger Tips

I am FAR from bilingual, but I definitely do have it burned into my brain my mom teaching me snippets of Spanish while growing up. And it was in a good way--I remember being intrigued and asking about more and more. It made it SO much easier for me when I reached middle/high school and had to take a language course--easy enough that they bumped me up a grade and it was still easy.

So my point is that even if they don't understand what you are saying, they are being exposed to the different tones and inflections of the language. I remember thinking, "geez, why can't these people understand that 'silla' is NOT pronounced 'sil-la'!"

Like I said, we don't do a ton of Spanish speaking around here--just here and there, but the kids are always interested and like to hear it and learn more. We do a lot of alternating the languages, as Rye mentioned, and soon you just start phasing the English parts out.

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