I took the kid to the swimming pool the other day and apart from all the fun going on, there was one of those moments when you observe something that makes you stop and think about this whole bilingual project.
There was this little boy in the changing room, about 6 years old, describing to his father how he had a scab in his arm, how he got the wound the other day going down the slide, and he was giving lots of details (gross… I know but we are only analyzing the syntax part now…) in a way only a native user of the language could do it. This made me think about (admit actually) the fact that I´m not able to produce such a speech in English with that detail or describing movements in such a precise/native way.
For the last 7 years (I spent some months living abroad, about 7 years ago) I´ve got used to something that most people find weird, but it works for me and I also consider it entertaining: I go mentally through the Spanish sentences that I hear around me or I just invent some conversations in my mind and then I try to translate them into English and sometimes into German (this last part doesn’t always apply cause it´s way too difficult for me, but still challenging!), so when I get stuck somewhere I take a mental note and then check it up as soon as I have the chance (I´ll never get tired of saying “god bless smartphones”). Although this procedure makes me gain some confidence when it comes to describing things for my little Jr., there´s always a frustrating point, mostly when I realize that I´ve been telling something wrong to my boy for quite a long time. Here are some examples:
1. “Dani, Mss. Giraffe is too tall to fit through the door; I think she should bend OVER a little bit.” After checking, this time with a native speaker, I was told that in this case they´d use bend DOWN.
2. The other day I found out that I had been giving SMASHED potatoes to my kid for quite a long time instead of MASHED potatoes…
3. His animals were showing up IN the window instead of showing up AT the window to play peekaboo.
It´s not like he´s going to be killed in the future for making this short of mistakes, and the objective is not for him to pass for a perfect native speaker, so there´s no need to make a scene, but I can´t help but wondering if I´ll be able to keep up with his progress in the future. I keep having this feeling that one day or another I´ll fall short trying to maintain a fluent conversation, and somehow talking to Papi will be more difficult than talking to other people. Now back to the real world, and disconnecting the worrywart mode, it´s time to check whether “help me strengthen the sheets” is a correct way to say “ayúdame a estirar las sábanas” or maybe not…
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