Preschooler Parsing Spanish

July 06, 2017 By: erik Category: Family, Offspring, Spanish

Colindres Town Hall

One of the hardest parts of learning a foreign language is learning to parse a string of sounds to determine where words stop and start. Whenever you hear a foreign language that you don’t know spoken, it sounds like one continuous stream of phonemes. When you hear a language you know spoken, the word breaks are obvious.

It has been fun watching my children learn my second language natively. I have the special insight into their minds in that they generally speak to me in English, but when they don’t have an English word, they will use the Spanish word, which I immediately translate for them before they complete the sentence. That’s what usually happens, but with both kids, there have been nouns that are always spoken in one of the two languages in our household. With my eldest, I think one was pañal (diaper/nappy), and with the youngest, another is biberon (baby bottle).

Two perfect examples of word parsing mistakes have happened in the past two days with my four-year-old, that I thought I’d share.


You’re gonna wanna read this

June 01, 2012 By: erik Category: Geeky, Musings, Offspring, Parenting, USA, Weird

Gonna WannaChildren are excellent mimics; it’s how we all learn to behave like we do. Everyone has heard the clichéd stories of how a child with verbally abusive parents will invent verbally abusive dialog between his toy dolls, or how a child of smokers will pretend to smoke. I like to think of myself as pretty introspective and self-aware; I know my personal vices and weaknesses. So I was surprised to notice, recently, a behavior in my daughter for which I am completely responsible, but was totally unaware that I was doing it myself.

Colors and Schools

May 10, 2012 By: erik Category: Offspring, Videos

Colors and Schools (thumbnail)Nora’s language ability has veered mildly towards Spanish lately. For a while now she would only converse with me in English, but now she will sometimes switch to Spanish if she doesn’t know how to say the phrase in English, or if she just forgets. I dutifully respond, “You mean, ‘blah blah blah’?” translating what she just said into English, and she repeats it and goes acquiring new English words like this.

Talking on the phone with Abuela

February 03, 2012 By: erik Category: Offspring, Parenting, Spanish, Videos

Talking with abuela (thumbnail)I’ve been focusing lately on Nora’s English, as my readers are more likely to understand her, but I thought I’d post some videos showcasing her Spanish development. One of Nora’s favorite pastimes is talking on the phone with her abuela (Spanish grandmother). There are times when Nora is entertained with some other task and won’t even take the phone, but there are other times where they have spoken for more than an hour, once to the point where Nora got a little hoarse. It’s very much a stream of consciousness sort of conversation, with Nora at the helm, and her abuela interjecting comments here or there to keep up the flow, sticking around long after I would’ve bored of the conversation.

No Me Duermo – I’m Not Falling Asleep

September 15, 2011 By: erik Category: Offspring, Religion, Spain, Spanish, Videos

No me duermo (thumbnail)Today is a local holiday honoring the Virgin of the Good Apparition, a bit of pareidolia that occurred back in 1605 where some light reflecting off a nearby hermitage window reminded someone of the Virgin Mary. Three hundred years later, this particular virgin became the patron saint of the Santander Diocese, and it became a regional holiday. Quite a few people walk the 13 kilometers, mostly uphill, from Colindres to the Bien Aparecida church in Ampuero, and then there are picnics and music and a general festive atmosphere up there…or so I’m told. We’ll have to do the walk one year.

Conquering the English

April 04, 2011 By: erik Category: News, Offspring

Reflected PlaygroundNora’s English has been improving by leaps and bounds lately, which is due to many factors, but I think the fact that her American grandparents visited for a week and that her Spanish grandparents haven’t visited for a while made a big difference, by enabling/forcing us to use English primarily at home. Little by little, I have been requiring more of her when she asks for things. When she wants her hands cleaned, she used to get away with just saying “sucio“, but since then we’ve stepped through “sucia mano“, “dirty”, “dirty hand”, and now up to “My hand is dirty.” We’ve climbed a similar ladder for cookie requests, from “más” through “more”, “más cookie”, “more cookie”, “cookie please”, “more cookie please”, “May I have more cookie?”, “May I have more cookie, please?”, to finally, “Daddy, may I have more cookie, please?”

A girl eating potatoes

March 15, 2011 By: erik Category: Funny, Offspring, Videos

A girl eating potatoes (vidcap)Last week, Nora was particularly loquacious before lunch, so I set up the video camera on a tripod in case she did something particularly cute during her lunch. As you may have noticed, it’s easier to make interview-style videos with her in her high chair because if she’s on the floor, she’s zooming around the house and it makes for an awkward video. Sure enough, after she’d had her fill of macaroni, she started pointing at the bookcase behind me and saying “Una niña que come patata!“, I assured her that there were no girls eating potatoes on the bookshelf, but she persisted until I finally understood what she meant.

English Accents – Patética Fonética

February 24, 2011 By: erik Category: England, Stuff I Found, Videos

Patética Fonética IntervieweeLast year I was interviewed by a local language teacher, Rodolfo, who is making a lovely series of videos for his English (as a second language, of course) students. My interview was not used in several interim videos, but I do appear in the one published yesterday discussing how we Americans view those bloody blokes with British accents. As usual, the entire video is quite interesting and very well edited. I continue to applaud Rodolfo and his projects at the Escuela Oficial de Idiomas de Laredo. I’d be happy to do another interview with him…but maybe with less sun in my eyes next time.

Bilingual Social Networking

January 21, 2011 By: erik Category: Internet, Spain, Spanish

Spain and USA Flags MergedAs Facebook slowly catches on here in Spain, I’ve been faced with a dilemma: my Spanish friends want to be friends with me on Facebook, but they don’t understand anything I post. And I understand them perfectly. I have some friends that post things in Polish, Italian, Russian, Portuguese, Hungarian, and Greek, and it is a little annoying to be excluded from their communication by my ignorance. Possible solutions to my problem that I see are:

Lopsided Language Development

January 13, 2011 By: erik Category: Musings, News, Parenting

Spain and USA Flags MergedNora’s Spanish has taken some leaps and bounds in the past couple weeks, yet her spoken English is lagging behind, and I can’t help but blame myself for it. In the mornings, when I care for her for 3-5 hours depending on when she gets up, I speak only English to her, except when we are around Spaniards in the grocery store. She, however, chooses to speak Spanish to me. There are some exceptions. When she asks for a cookie, she says “Doh-chi!“, and when she wants to get down off of something (e.g. chair, sofa, stroller), she typically says, “Down!”, although she has recently taken to saying “Al suelo!” (to the floor).