Our plane touched down back in Atlanta, and those who know me well asked me one question about our trip to Guatemala, “So… did Ella speak Spanish?”
They have witnessed my dramatic anxiety over my daughter’s dual language development and knew this trip was a bit of the rubber saying “hello, road!”
The short answer is no. And it was a bit crushing.
Naturally, I find myself ready to throw in the towel. “We’ll just raise us a good monolingual, American girl and be done with it. I know a lot of those, myself included, and we’re not so bad.” Did I mention I can be dramatic?
It’s just that I really thought this trip would unlock her secret vault of Spanish language. After all, we’ve been really working to increase and diversify her sources: preschool Spanish class, church, her babysitter is a native speaker, and then there’s, you know… her papi!
But there she was, talking to her “Lita” (abuelita) in rapid-fire English. (Since she and I shared a room, I can attest that the chattering began promptly at 5am when I opened my eyes to meet hers and hear “Mama, what is this picture on my sheets?” Lord, help me!)
We started this bilingual journey with her, and Billy and I are both committed to it. But man alive, I underestimated how delayed the pay off of seeing her converse in a second language would be.
It was hard to watch her frustration as she wasn’t always understood and to know the desire our family has to communicate with her easily.
Although, I also recognize that no one communicates with a toddler seamlessly. Just this afternoon, she backed me into a conversational corner and I heard myself saying, “If our car is at home, what are we inside of?”
Overall, the trip was a wonderful time for her (and all of us) to enjoy time with family, eat a lot of frijoles and to have many conversations about seat belts: who was wearing them, who wasn’t, why people were or were not wearing seat belts.
As I keep learning, raising bilingual kids requires constant recommitment. So we stocked up on books and once again, we are looking for ways to keep up the Spanish and eagerly looking for those moments when she lets us know she’s getting it.
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