Scribbler in Seville

In a right lio

Just a quickie, a few observations on the delights of bringing up bilingual kids.

My kids (aged 4.5 and 2) both speak English and Spanish. My son (4.5) can switch fairly easily between the two (he speaks English to me, and Spanish to his Dad). His vocabulary is better in English – he struggled a bit with his Spanish when he started school, especially the first term, despite having been at nursery for two years already.  But he’s come on amazingly, and I love listening to him talk to his Dad, “Papa”.

I’m so used to him switching languages, I don’t notice it any more, but when friends come round to visit, or we’re at a park get-together, his bilingualism gets commented on. I take it for granted, though I’ve lost count of the number of people (mostly Spanish) who remark on how lucky he is to have both languages. English classes for their kids are often their number one consideration.

One of his biggest confusions is saying “that’s why” when he means “because” (porque) – normally I only have to correct him once on his grammar (I’m an English teacher and a journalist, so he doesn’t stand a chance, poor thing) and he gets it straight away. But this time, because there’s the confusion of ¿por que? (why) and porque (because), he’s got himself into a right lio.

My daughter (2) mixes the two languages – mostly the nouns in English and the verbs in Spanish (from her nursery, I guess) – “VEN AQUI, DOGGIE!” “QUIERO RICE CAKE!” “VAMONOS, BATHTIME!” , “OTRA VEZ PLANE!” It used to be “patos” (zapatos), now it’s “shoes”. Or, when she wants to be taken out of her cot “QUIERO OUT!”. All shouted at full volume, Spanish style. Like most girls, and especially second children, she’s picked up loads more words than my son had at her age, and can express simple ideas quite clearly.

As with everything to do with bringing up children, it’s a learning experience for all of us. But, for me as a linguist, one of the more enjoyable.

7 thoughts on “In a right lio

  1. wordconnections

    Given that you and your family are dealing with Spanish and English, and that you’re a linguist, you may be interested in my Spanish-English Word Connections blog.

  2. Bibsey Mama

    ¡Hola! This is a subject close to my heart. We live in rural Andalucía and I worry about how our little one is going to cope with Spanish when the time comes (she is not yet at guardería and at home everyday where we speak only English). I do speak to her a little in Spanish (we watch Charlie y Lola en español and I have a couple of story books in Spanish) but am concerned that my standard is not good enough. I don’t want to teach her bad habits etc.

    Do you have any advice?


    PS. Thanks for the mention in your blogroll

    1. Fiona Flores Watson

      Bibsey, you’re not teaching her bad habits, you are giving her a massive advantage in life – being bilingual, and even better, in Spanish and English! How old will she be when she starts at guarde? My son started at one year, and was a little lost at first, even though my husband is Spanish and only speaks Spanish to him. Now he’s bilingual. I would stick with Charlie and Lola en español, and maybe a bit of Clan (TDT kids’ channel – Postman Pat, Chuggington etc) in Spanish too. Do you have any Spanish friends, so she can play with their kids, to hear them speak Spanish, and get used to being around Spanish-speaking people in general?

      1. Bibsey Mama

        Thanks for the advice. I will plough on with my imperfect Español. Bibsey is nearly one but we are not quite ready for guarde yet. The neighbours kids are Spanish/English bilingual so I try to encourage them to speak Spanish with her (she adores them and hangs on their every word and movement), although they are convinced she won’t understand :-).

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