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What Bilingual Kids Say About Their Parents


When I envisioned raising a bilingual child, she was walking in the grocery store, pointing out objects in English and in Spanish. I imagined her running through the house, switching effortlessly between languages as she addressed her papa and me in our own words. 

And I saw her as a teenager, talking on the phone to her similarly bilingual friend, butchering both languages in a Spanglish mix that would make me secretly happy. “And then I was like no puedo creerlo!

I am delighted to report that after some overstated concerns about language delay, she is now adding words all the time and even dabbling in the world of sentences. As usual in my parenting adventures, though, a new unexpected twist has occurred.

She is drawing from both languages to be sure, although I continue to be shocked how much her English is expanding in comparison to the Spanish. However, an interesting pattern is emerging. Let me give some examples.

Two situations where she tends to speak Spanish? Más (more), generally accompanied by the sign-language in case I don’t understand and usually referring to more food. And her most recent addition, quiero jugar (I want to play), typically accompanied by sobs and outstretched arms for any exterior door. 

She has also started using two new English sentences. “Are you okay?” She can only ask this question if she is mere inches from your face. And “Stop that!” No explanation required. 


Now, do you notice the same pattern I do? When each parent is speaking a different language, what do the words the kids learn reveal about our parenting?

Apparently, what my daughter has heard from me over the last two years is an uncomfortably close “Are you okay?” and “Stop that!” Her father, on the other hand, offers a life of endless food and playtime. The one thing I have going for me is that más is often followed by “cookie,” which for her, is actually referring to Goldfish.

What about you? Do your kids repeat phrases back to you that make you question your parenting?

3 comments

  1. Your daughter is so gorgeous. Dont question your patenting you are a good mother never doubt it. However children are spoonges and pick up everything good or bad. She wants to be like you and you are her only point of referrence. Tell her many "te quieros" it will be fine. You are doing a grat job.

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  2. I am not a parent but as a teacher I have come to realize certain habits and phrases that I have that I would not have realized otherwise. Sometimes the kids would play "teacher" that is when I realized I said some kids names more than others (mostly redirecting them and getting them to follow directions)and I said certain words and phrase in interesting ways. What really was surprising about all this were the kids would go home and "play school" and then all the parents were aware of my habits too. Also as a teacher you should know that young children come to school with certain way of saying things and phrases that we realize they hear all day as well.

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  3. Kids are completely like sponges. It's incredible! I won't be shocked if Ella's next sentence is "It's a little too early for all that screaming." I feel like I say that every morning. :)

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