12 August, 2016

What´s up?

It´s been too long since my last post. As always, work, kids… life comes in the way. But, since this is truly a lifelong project, almost one year may turn into nothing, right? (AKA lame excuse). Here is the update of what´s going on with our young bilingual fellows at age 6y-3m old (boy) and 3y-5m old (girl).

The kids´ speech is evolving, as it was expected, and the patterns are turning kind of flexible. The big boy has changed a bit. I guess it´s the pressure of the social sphere that is powerful, his friends and most of his interactions are in Spanish, and despite the presence of some English in school, it´s not enough to balance the situation. The fact is that he talks to me a lot more in Spanish lately, and I don´t want to twist his arm too much by interrupting the communication, so I let him be and answer in English… From time to time I ask him to switch so “we don´t forget our language”. The good point is that when requested, he can pull out his English and it´s usually fresh, so he doesn´t seem to have forgotten many words or expressions, unless it´s a rare one.

We keep watching tv in English without any complaints, and when we talk about the movies we´ve just seen, they both seem to understand everything that was said, so we are cool in that area.

Our challenge now would be to get the big boy talking more spontaneously in English (not only on demand…), and get the little mermaid to finally start speaking English, since she understands, and is able to say some things but way less naturally than her brother, even when he was her age. I think she has had less exposure and clearly less strict patterns from my side, as it´s been impossible to maintain the same attention than before. You know what I´m talking about if your offspring is formed by more than 1.

There´s another reason why exposure has been more limited in case of the little girl and that is the temper tantrums phase. Since she was 2 years old she´s been having many tantrums and acting out a lot which makes us focus all our efforts in controlling her in these moments (suffering I´d say…), and we end up exhausted, and with little energy to work on OPOL, English playtime or anything but resting our heads, which are about to explode sometimes. I guess girls are always more complicated than boys, because although the big one had some tantrums, they were never like hers.

Despite all the above mentioned, it´s also fair to say that sometimes she does jump in the English field and maintain a reasonable conversation, not without some effort, and not without pointing out afterwards how cool it is that she is speaking English with “Papi” and how happy we all get because of this rare occasion J… The truth is that she is coming up with really funny Spanglish expressions like these:

  • You are “keaming” your feet – for “your feet are getting burnt”, here you can see the Spanish structure (predominant in her) with words in English and some made-up stuff that she pulled out of her hat (“Get burnt”= “quemarse in Spanish”). The boy used to work the other way around, using English structure, English words and some Spanish in the way.
  • In the car – Papi! You must fasten your “cint”!! – for “you must fasten your seatbelt” (Spanish-“cinturĂ³n”).
  • I don´t want to “ensuz” my hair!- for “I don´t want to get my hair dirty!” (Spanish- “ensuciar”=get dirty)

It seems that she came to the conclusion that speaking English is just like taking Spanish Words, cutting off some vowels here and there, and then using a funny accent to say things (like chewing on something), all mixed up and… TA-DA… I speak English!

Apart from the tough times It´s also fair to say that she gives us also precious and joyful moments like the other night, when we were going to bed:

“Papi, if I had all the fathers in line (I guess she meant all of them, in the world), I would choose you”. And that is just so sweet…




09 September, 2015

She said YES!

She finally said YES!! Well, actually not only once, my little princess started saying “YES”… instead of “SI” when I speak to her in English which is a big milestone since no English words seemed to be in her stockroom… 

This happened back in May. Now she turned 2 years and 6 months old she is like a mini-pink-cutest ever-strawberry cupcake-chatterbox, but mainly in Spanish…
The fact is she understands everything in English but she is still reluctant to answer in the same language. The closest reference that we have is her brother, and to be fair I think she speaks more Spanish (more precise, right verbal tenses, accurate and conjugated adjectives…), BUT less English than him at the same age, as he had his 2 year old spur in a more balanced way between the 2 languages.

The good thing is that when I get stricter and I pretend not to understand anything she is asking for, she switches and tries to say it in English, so I know she gets the OPOL picture. Now that I sat and mull this over, I think the difference lays a lot on 2 facts:

1.       I don´t turn a deaf ear on Spanish as often as I used to with the boy, I just don´t have the time now that there are 2 monkeys jumping around and more things to handle at the same time. The result is that she doesn´t have to switch mentally as many times as her brother did to get what she wants.

2.       My wife didn’t have the need to switch into English with the boy to increase exposure so we didn´t work on this option. Now apparently we should reconsider it, seing the results…
The big boy plays an important role too. He speaks in English to her sometimes but not very often, and lately he speaks Spanish to me sometimes, with her witnessing the scene. I answer in English and we zigzag a little until we follow the conversation in English. But in the end, when you look at the whole pic, again she doesn´t really feel THE NEED, which is the key point that prompts the speaking part.

Despite all this, I´ve perceived a change in my mindset. I feel much more in peace with the whole situation when hard phases come along, given the great results reached by the big boy. I mean he is a competent user of English now; he is 5 years old and if dropped in an English speaking country (let´s say) he´d be more than able to communicate and survive. As an example, we went to the beach during our holidays last month and while we were there he met a group of 4-5 year old British kids and started playing naturally with them... in English. I just felt like we had got something big, really big in fact, like all the pieces were matching together.

There´s also an interesting (revealing) thing that I´m noticing lately, and this is that, as I read in some books at the beginning of this adventure, what mum does impacts a 70% on the outcome, and what dad does matters only the other 30%, provided an equal amount of exposure… This, translated into a practical example is as follows: no matter how many times I ask the question in English, the girl´s answer is in Spanish, mum asks the question in English ONCE, and she automatically makes the effort of answering in English… Here you go Papi, in your face… but hey! Papi never gives up, Papi never surrenders…