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Code-Switching Before Breakfast

My daughter is obsessed with shoes. First thing in the morning, she’s standing in her crib, pointing to yesterday’s discarded footwear and shouting, “Shoes! Shoes!” Yes, she wants them on even before changing out of her pajamas, which believe me, makes that process even more fun.

Recently, I lifted her out of the crib and onto the floor, where she toddled over and raised a baby Croc above her head. “Patos!” she hollered, which I have chosen to interpret as the end of zapatos, or shoes, in Spanish. Loosely, going back and forth between languages is called code-switching.

So far, shoes seems to be the only item she can identify in both languages. She’s pretty good at hola and hello, although she definitely prefers the round sound of hola. All beverages are agua (water), but when you hand her the cup, she responds with “thank you.” She likes to play ball with the doggie and is happy to let you know that her bag of Goldfish is all done.

I’m on the one hand surprised that her English words outnumber her Spanish ones, considering she watches TV in Spanish and stays home with her papa speaking Spanish to her all day. On the other hand, preschool, our family time, and most of her friend time are all in English. 

Though I have no doubts that she will continue to grow in both languages, it is fascinating to watch her development progress. I am continuing to struggle with her delayed vocabulary overall. As she nears nineteen months, it is frustrating to still be experiencing such limited communication.

What I have realized recently, though, is I think it is also annoying for her. At certain points, her propensity towards tantrums has really spiked, and many of them seem to develop out of pointing at some unknown (by me) object and grunting emphatically.

Considering she can understand and follow directions in English or Spanish, it must be difficult for her to not be able to tell us much in either. Not to mention, she is often talking non-stop, so if she thinks she is communicating… I imagine she thinks we are the ones who need language development!

While I still stand by our OPOL decision, raising a bilingual baby continues to be an experiment and one where I often wonder if we are “doing it right.” But then again, I guess that could be said for most aspects of parenting, right?

In the midst of what parental experiment do you find yourself these days?

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A Life with Subtitles. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.