Killing Off the Myths: Bilingual Kids At A Loss for Words

November 21, 2014


One of my biggest fears about raising bilingual kids was that I'd heard about the likelihood of a language delay. Well, that and being left out. I was very worried about being the monolingual one out.

But a language delay made me nervous. I was so eager to have conversations with my little girl, and she was constantly frustrated that her points and grunts and tantrums weren't communicating her ultimate message.

In fact, around 18ish months, I did consider going English-only for a while because I was so eager for her to talk. She seemed agitated, and I wanted to give her every possible avenue to be able to communicate.

I had also read an interesting heads up in a book on bilingual parenting. It said kids entering school may appear to have limited vocabularies compared to their monolingual peers. This "deficit" could cause teachers to encourage us to drop the second language to build up her first.

The book asserted that, in actuality, bilingual kids would have an equal vocabulary in total, but words may be divided between the multiple languages. A monolingual encounter then may make the child appear to know fewer words. That small piece of advice stuck with me, and I tucked it away for a rainy day.

So I was prepared for language delay and a quiet building of two vocabulary sets that, on their own, may seem below age level.

Nope.

In our case, that's not what happened at all. I wouldn't say Ella was an early talker, but she was not noticeably late. More shocking to me, though, is that she knows all. of. the. words.

I can't ever imagine anyone telling me that she's not speaking enough in English. Seriously.

In fact, it's not uncommon for folks to comment on how communicative/talkative/articulate she is. Now, I recognize that her dual vocabularies have not grown equally. And the few times she does start speaking in Spanish sentences, I've heard her switch mid-way to speaking English with a Spanish accent. (ha!)

I'm not worried, though. I know that her Spanish is developing and growing, and we're continuing to foster it. We are a predominately English-speaking household living in an English-speaking community. I know her Spanish will take some extra nurturing.

But I am relieved that the concerns I'd read about, including language delay and limited vocabularies, have been minimal to non-existent in our experience. If you're out there considering bilingual education or worried about the effects on language development, I just want to encourage you that it doesn't always mean a delay or limitation for every kid.

And honestly, even if there is a short delay or it takes them a little while longer to fill out their word bank, these seasons quickly pass. Growing kids is kind of like boiling water, in my opinion. And (especially with the first-born) there is a lot of watching, waiting for each stage to emerge.

Barring some unique circumstances where there are some delays that need attention, most kids really do come right along. Everyone simply moves at their own pace. Don't give up on that second (or third or twelfth) language because you're worried it'll take longer. It's totally worth it! And in our case, the surprise was that it really didn't delay at all.

Have you worried about raising bilingual kids because of concerns you've heard?

When Bilingual Babies Get Sassy

November 17, 2014


Billy recently traveled with the kids to visit his parents in Guatemala City. In what I can only imagine was a harrowing day of multiple flights with a lap child and a talkative toddler, one hilarious story stood out from his experience.

While chillin' in Fort Lauderdale during their layover, a man decided to chat it up with Ella. (First mistake?) He asked her, "Are you going to Guatemala?"

Ella looked at him. "No, no," she said. "I'm going to wat-te-mah-lah." I imagine at this moment he probably stared at her dumbfounded. Naturally, she continued. "wat-te-mah-lah is Spanish. goo-ah-tay-mall-ah English."

When Billy recounted this moment to me I was giggling hysterically and horrified in the same moment. "What did the man say?"

Thankfully, this U.S. gentleman was gracious and laughingly conceded, "Yes, that's true." He then asked Billy if she was bilingual and offered some super encouraging words about that endeavor. 

Ella has also zeroed in on my monolingualism recently. If she hears me speaking any Spanish, she asks me to stop because you don't speak Spanish. But then she keeps asking me, "Do you speak Spanish?" so the verdict's still out.

Putting her to bed, I called her Gabriella. She responded, "Mom, don't call me Gabriella in English. Only in Spanish." Pause. "Say it in Spanish, Mom." So I garbled the r's and the ll's because I can't pronounce them correctly in Spanish. But she nodded approvingly. 

Bless her little bilingual heart! Trying to figure all this stuff out with a papa who tries to speak solely Spanish to her, but also speaks a lot of English. And a mom who says she only speaks English, but occasionally busts out the Spanish, and is often the gringa with the accent. Good times!

5 Guatemalan Goodies You Definitely Need

November 13, 2014

I was doing a quick Amazon search for a Guatemalan flag, and I came across some of the most amazing and surprising items. Everybody most certainly needs a couple of these patriotic items.

#1 - Outlet Cover
I mean how awesome is this? A flag for your electrical outlets! Plug in a fan. Turn on your hair dryer. !Vamos!

#2 - Pot Holders
Nothing helps you take hot things out of the oven like this Guatemalan flag superimposed on a brick wall.
#3 - Apron
And while you're in the kitchen, why not throw on this flag apron? Seriously, why not?
#4 - Flask
If you need a flag flask, I've got your number. Go patriotic!

Because everyone needs boxing gloves, and everyone needs them with 
What incredible, patriotic items have you found online?
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