Spanglish Shenanigans

February 25, 2011 By: erik Category: Offspring, Spanish, Videos 463 views

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Grinning in PigtailsAs I have mentioned before, Nora has a very strong preference for speaking Spanish over English. It can be rather frustrating for me, since I’m doing everything in my power to motivate her to use English, and she just refuses. My general technique for reinforcing English use goes like this:

  1. Nora asks for something in Spanish.
  2. I say “What?” or just pretend to not hear.
  3. She repeats the request in Spanish.
  4. I repeat the request for her in English.
  5. She repeats the request in English.
  6. I immediately act on giving her whatever she asked for.

In the last month, her spoken Spanish has really taken off, and I think her English understanding has improved greatly as well. I can only think of three words that she tends to use in English before Spanish: cookie, shoe, and down, as in “get me down from this chair”.

Recently we’ve been having a lot of back-and-forth exchanges where I try to get her to say something in English and she insists on saying it in Spanish. A particular recurring “argument” is over the word “tomorrow”. A recent discussion went like this:

Me: Are you going to school tomorrow with [favorite daycare worker] Nela?
Nora: ¡Sí­!
Me: Say, “Tomorrow to school with Nela.”
Nora: Mañana al cole con Nela.
Me: No, tomorrow to school with Nela.
Nora: Mañana al cole con Nela.
Me: Say “tomorrow”.
Nora: Mañana.
Me: Tomorrow!
Nora: ¡Mañana!
Me: Tomorrow!
Nora: ¡Mañana!

By the end of it, she had realized the game and we were both laughing, despite shouting in each others’ faces. Today on our walk, she kept pointing at cars saying, “¡Otro coche!” I said, “Another car!”, and she would repeat “Another car,” but then when the next vehicle caught her eye, she was back to exclaiming “¡Otro coche!“. Sigh…

Today after lunch, she was doing the most adorable, though not ladylike, thing of taking sips of water and then burping, so I went to get the camera, and she turned silly with grinning. The following four minute video is a good example of my frustration with speaking English to her and getting almost exclusively Spanish in return. The pigtails are courtesy of her stylist.

If you stay until the end, she’ll give you a kiss.

  • Unrelated to the language thing, I think this is the first photo I’ve seen of Nora in which I can detect some of Marga in her face. Usually she appears to be just straight-up Mini Erik.

  • I see Marga in her quite often.

  • She certainly has a mind of her own. Just what you want in your child (eventually). Your battle over tomorrow reminds me of a standoff that you and I had when you were almost exactly her age. You decided to call me “Betsy” and I wanted you to call me Mom or Mama. That lasted for several weeks with me trying to ignore your increasing desperation to get my attention and you sticking to your guns. It wasn’t fun. 30 years later I have no idea how it ended, but by golly you call me Mom.

    • erik

      Thanks for that comment, Betsy. 😛

  • Jeanie

    Hi Erik. There is no winning with a two year old! I applaud your efforts to have Nora grow up bi-lingual. You might want to consider lessening the frustration on both your and Nora’s part, by just continuing to talk to her in English and do the rephrasing that you do from Spanish to English so she continues to get those connections and then just let her respond in whatever language she chooses which will most likely continue to be Spanish until she has a need to speak English. I’m no expert on language development, but I betcha that Nora will use spoken English with no problem when she feels the need to. I have a close friend whose sister married a Mexican and lived in Mexico. She did exactly as you are when her daughter was born. She always spoke to her in English, but let her respond in Spanish. The daughter never spoke much English while in her Mexican home, but there was a time when she went for an extended stay with her grandparents in southern California. The grandparents did not speak Spanish and told the granddaughter that she’d have to speak English in their house if she wanted to be understood so within a matter of weeks, the granddaughter shifted to English without a hitch.

  • Interesting to read as I have a nine-month-old and though I try to speak in my parent’s mothertongue of Urdu since English is what we speak most, its what I’m afraid he will learn leaving behind the ancestral language alltogether- Its interesting that ou are struggling to impart English- look forward to reading more about this, and will be linking to this in an upcoming post for sure 🙂

  • Probably the more you insist, the less she’ll cooperate. In our case, Carmen spoke mostly English until she started going to daycare, and then it was a lost cause. She doesn’t ever answer me in English, but Rocí­o, who, being the second child, has always spoken more Spanish, now loves talking to me in English. But when she was Nora’s age, she almost always answered me in Spanish. It’s only lately that she’s shown an interest in speaking to us in English, and we have some pretty complex conversations, so all the input has paid off. So, don’t despair, Nora will end up understanding everything and speaking when she needs to or wants to. Just keep exposing her to English every way you can.

  • Hi Erik,

    Kudos on your blog! My mom is a child shrink & sorta follows
    linguistic news. So she sent this video for her grandkids in Spain & USA and thought you might benefit.

    saludos desde Marbella,
    Dan O’Beirne

    • erik

      Yes. I saw that the day after I wrote this post and came really close to embedding it here. Thanks for your comment.