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When Bilingual Babies Get Sassy


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!

7 comments

  1. Ha ha ha, super cute! I didn't realize you didn't go with them.
    And even without the whole bilingual thing kids say the darndest things correcting their parents. ;) I'm sure you'll have a whole book full before long!

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  2. Jessie Lewis3:13 PM

    AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH this is hilarious... I can feel the attitude :)

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  3. Amanda E. Giles12:49 AM

    Love how even as she is trying to grasp the world around her, her English speaking world and her Spanish speaking world, she unapologetically owns her understanding of each! Love this!

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  4. That's such a good way to frame it, Mandy. So true!

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  5. I'm sure we will, too! I actually did go down a week later to join them. We all traveled back together. I couldn't get out of the trip twice! ;)

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