The Bilingual Smackdown

Yes. We have dropped the proverbial hammer on bilingualism at our house. Naturally, it was me, the monolingual one, leading the charge.

After listening to a younger kid speaking Spanish and English, I of course began uttering panicked phrases like “the window is closing!” (I work best under pressure… even if only self-applied.)

So Billy and I had a strategy meeting. It included the following three resolutions:

1. Solo Español

Billy and our rockstar nanny discussed re-amping their commitment to Spanish only. It’s totally harder than it sounds when Ella speaks non-stop in English and often responds with “I can’t hear you!

Ironically, this is now starting to involve me doing translation. Poor girl. I’m totally winging it!

2. Read To Me

Ban on English books. Well, not for me. I still read them to her. But Billy is making the extra effort to find those Spanish books for the bedtime routine.

3. Talk to Me

We’ve started gently encouraging Ella to respond back in Spanish. Usually, Billy has to provide her the words and have her repeat back her responses.

We’ve been doing this for a couple weeks now, and the changes have been dramatic! Ella has definitely started speaking more in Spanish… even to me.

It’s totally hard not to squeal out in glee when she looks at me and says “Quiero este vestido.” But I know if I show too much excitement, she’ll stop immediately. (Did I mention she’s 3 going on 16?)

An unexpected twist, however, is her babytalk. She has started speaking a ton of garbledy gook. Billy told me that he and our nanny have determined that’s Ella trying to speak Spanish.

It feels strange to hear your incredibly articulate (in English) child return to muttering non-sensical sounds. But she appears dead serious, so we’re listening politely and responding as we can.

And inside I’m doing a tiny little happy dance!

I won’t pretend to assume it’s all over now. If there’s anything we’ve learned in this bilingual experiment, it’s the importance of recommitment. But it’s certainly nice to be experiencing some small victories and seeing the beauty of what will come.

What are some of your small victories?


  1. Muy bien Ella!

    Maybe her speaking Spanish will put the pressure on you to learn more Spanish too :)

    I keep thinking about the day when Micah will be correcting my Spanish, haha!

  2. Keep it up! I just read an article from a trilingual adult who said it was his dad (who doesn't speak mandarin) who encouraged his mom to keep it up!

  3. I know, right? I do realize that with Billy speaking more around me, my comprehension is expanding. My speaking on the other hand... I guess we'll have to move abroad for that one! ;)

  4. Thank you. That is encouraging to hear. By chance, would you be able to send me a link to the article? I'd love to read it!


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