I love canela.

June 10, 2009 § 5 Comments

Our bilingual baby is showing her bilingual chops. She’s two and a half today and it’s really cool to see what words she uses in Spanish and what words she uses in English. I checked out a book from our library on raising a bilingual child (by Barbara Zurer Pearson) and I thought I’d be fighting their theories but the book actually is giving me words to use when explaining our bilingual household. Well… mostly.

There are different ways you can approach a bilingual lifestyle, all pretty self-explanatory.

One Person, One Language (OPOL)

Minority Language at Home (ML@H)

Time and Place

Mixed Language Policy

When I talk to my dad, I always use Spanish and my mom always gets English from me- no matter what language they start in. Funny, since both my parents are completely bilingual (read, write, speak perfectly). When we lived in Colombia, I feel like we heard more English being spoken at home and when we lived in the States, more Spanish seemed to be around. In our school in Colombia, they used the Time and Place approach. For example, my geometry teacher was American so he taught his class in English. The physics teacher was Colombian so you’d get physics in Spanish. Algebra was taught by a British teacher so we had it in English. So, depending on the time of day and/or the class you were in, the language was changed.

I don’t like the fact that I switch languages so often- tho most people think it’s cool when they hear it. I wish I knew more ways to say things in both languages. I get tripped up in each language and frequent dictionaries and thesauri all the time. At the same time, I get a little freaked out when I hear that some of my bilingual friends had parents who would refuse to talk to them or pretend they couldn’t understand if they didn’t use the correct language. Phif! That’s too much for me… but will I end up with kids who sprinkle in Spanish and figure that’s all they need to do to be bilingual? Bilingual, to me, doesn’t mean you sprinkle. It means you can communicate in a single language without switching. Writing this all down is helping me see why I’m getting ansy about bilingual baby’s lack of Spanish. I mean, she sprinkles. She’ll say things like: I love canela (cinammon). This is what is called: Spanglish. Spanglish is what I use with my sisters when we’re talking really fast and I can’t find a word in Spanish, so I use the word in English. Not for words like pan (bread) or libro (book) but for things like snowshoes- words I don’t know (or am too lazy to know) in Spanish.

Navigating in two cultures is also a part of my life being bilingual. Though being bilingual and bicultural has made me feel, on many accounts, like I don’t belong in either culture. I’m too American to be Colombian and in the U.S. I’m seen as an anomaly. No accent in either language and looks that make me blend into a Caucasian crowd.

One of the things that I fear from living in an English dominant community is that my kids aren’t exposed to Spanish. We sing songs, prayers and read some books in Spanish but they hear me speak it to them only- unless we have friends over who I think would be weird about it. I have a couple of friends who also speak Spanish but there is little in the way of a culture here that speaks Spanish. “Why then did you move here?”, a little voice asks. That’s economic in nature and social in context and I may delve into it some other day. For now, let me get back to the task at hand: trying to come up with some viable solution to our limited Spanish.

At home, I speak to my kids in Spanish. Sometimes, in order to figure out what bilingual baby is saying, I repeat back to her (in English) what she has said and then work from there in Spanish. I’ve also noticed when I’m getting impatient with a situation, I use English. In thinking about it, I find that English is much more controlled for me than Spanish. I was just browsing a blog whose author and husband use Spanish-only on 3 days of the week.

This is getting long-winded and mind-boggling so I’ll stop even though I’ve got some more thoughts brewing. I can see my interests shifting into this whole bilingual/bicultural world and there isn’t that much out there, so I can see that my blogging will get heavy into that topic. Wish me luck.


§ 5 Responses to I love canela.

  • Nicole says:

    I (who is not bilingual in the least) think that when you live in a place that is one language, and strive to use another, it is very difficult not to sprinkle. My high school Spanish teacher is Argentinian. Her father was Italian and mother was also Argentinian. She always told us she spoke Ispanglish. She was fluent in all three languages; however, she and her family mixed the three constantly. I don’t think it’s abnormal. Besides, why would you ask for a snowshoe in South America? 😉

  • studentsoflife says:

    good luck is all I can say. I’m not bilingual enough to use french with our kid(s) so the plan is to send them to school in french and hope for the best. I’m sure BB will be fine no matter which approach you use. From my understanding even people who use the OPOL have kids mixing the two when they are BB’s age and it all comes out in the wash (so to speak).

  • Maggie says:

    I just wanted to say that I really loved reading this entry. It made me feel a lot better about the way my bilingual baby is learning to speak and sprinkle. I am American, but speak spanish fluently. My husband is from El Salvador and only speaks Spanish. We speak mostly Spanish at home, but I mix some English in there too. My daughter is also babysat by an American woman. She still has a lot of “favorite words” which she knows how to say in both languages but consitently uses in one or the other…i.e, its always “pan” for bread, “juice” and not jugo etc. But she also has words she uses in both, like “toys” and “juguetes” and “mine” and “mio”….

    It has been hard for me to just let go of whether she is learning “enough” Spanish, but I try really hard to speak to her in a lot of Spanish and I just hope she learns to speak well and will want to continue to use it.

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