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7 Words My Kids Know Only in Spanish


One of the delights of raising bilingual kids is watching them create, adapt, and navigate their growing vocabulary. I have recently been amused, noticing the Spanish words that have "stuck," even though English is definitely the go-to language at home. Here's a few favorites:

Agua


It was both kids' first Spanish word, I believe, and it hangs around. I read or heard somewhere that it's common for bilingual (Spanish/English) kids to say agua early because it's easier than "water." Isaac, in fact, also calls milk agua, which is super awesome when he asks for agua, then throws a cup of water and screams in discontent. Gabriella switches back and forth on this one these days, but I still hear her say agua more frequently than most other Spanish words she knows.

Lion


Gabriella has a clothes hamper that is a lion. We have called it leóncito since Day One, and we all still do. We almost never say the word lion. Apparently, we do big cats in Spanish only.

Coco


Coco literally translates "coconut." And while we love coconuts, we use the word coco primarily to refer to one's head. As in, "Cuidado con tu coco!" or "Careful with your coconut!" meaning "Watch your head!" The other day, Gabriella told me, "Coco means noggin." Well, there you go.

Pepe


Gabriella's first true love: the pacifier. And since we introduced it to Isaac at 18 months (really? what were we thinking?), his obsession has grown to epic proportions. He wanders the house, arms outstretched, hands up, asking "Pepe? Pepe?" Billy told me after I said no to him one day, Isaac got close to Billy's ear, nudged him, and whispered, "Pepe?"

Mimi


The only time we get pepe is when it's time to go mimi, which translates to "night night." This is a phrase that my kids definitely use regularly, and we do not switch back and forth. Bedtime is simply "mimi time."

Poo-fay-la


I don't know how to spell this one, and Google is no help, so I went phonetic. It basically translates to pee-yew or pew-wee (depending on how you say that one). In short, stinky! Given how many diapers we've changed in the last four and a half years, this word is a common Spanish one in our casa.

Papi


You might remember all my drama about what Gabriella was going to call Billy. Well, Papi has gone the distance. Isaac now calls him this as well and never uses the words "da-da" or "daddy." Gabriella, can code switch, and sometimes I hear her refer to him as her dad when it relates to picking her up at preschool, etc. But at home, he's always Papi.

These are the seven words we rarely translate. There are others that we go back and forth (my favorite is popcorn... or poporopo!), but these are pretty solid Spanish standbys in our Spanglish household.
What words do your kids never translate from their second language?

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5 comments

  1. Love this! I've been thinking about doing a similar post on Micah and what his bilingualism looks like right now at 2 years old.

    For us, there are certain words Micah only says in Spanish too - agua, papi, mas, otro, pan.

    Then there are some he will switch back and forth, like "ice cream/helado, hi/hola, two/dos" to name a few.

    It is so interesting to see what words they choose and to watch their language develop!

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  2. Betsy7:48 PM

    Love it! For some reason my kids always say "pan con mantequilla" (bread with butter) or "pan con mayonesa" (bread with mayonnaise) even if they are speaking English. Lol

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  3. Man, their little brains just impress me to no end! Way to go, Micah!

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  4. Haha. Agua is just so. much. easier. to say (apparently!) Also, I would definitely love to hang out, and I was literally just thinking the same thing about two weeks ago!

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  5. Oooh yum. I will take a slice of pan con mantequilla and a slice of bread with butter. (Can bilingualism help us get away with that? More butter????)

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