October 11, 2010

My Bilingual Babies

All my babies are bilingual until they are two years old.

Then they realize that no one else speaks Spanish, so, in their little baby brains, I can actually see them decide to start speaking mostly English.

Kids are SMART.

Peace Baby, at almost two herself, is starting the transition early. So here is a list of some of her favorite baby words in Spanish and English, before she goes all English:


Mamá = Mama
Papi = Dad, daddy
ah-wa = (agua) water
na nuna  = (la luna) the moon
tutú (too-TOO) = baby Spanish for "car" (cars go "toot toot")
tuto (TOO-toh)  = baby Spanish for "hot"
noni (NO-nee) = baby Spanish for "sleepytime, tired"
                          (ie, "vamos a hacer noni?" = let's go sleepy?)
pupo (POO-poh) = belly button
popó (poh-POH) = poopies, poop
                         (ie, "hiciste popó?" = did you go poopies?)
pah-ta = pasta
guau-guau (wow-wow) = dog, puppy
                        (because dogs say "wow wow" in Spanish, not "ruff-ruff")
pipí (pee-PEE) = birdie (because Spanish speaking birdies say
                         "pee-pee", English speaking birdies say  "cheep-cheep")
amen (AH-men) = amen
tah-oh (ciao/chau) = bye


ninky = stinky
oh yay = yes
nown = down
ry = rice
eh = egg
chee = cheese
mihw = milk
anum-anum = yummies
beh-oh = bear
bee-yo = video
she-she = Jesus
baw = ball

All my kiddies understand Spanish. Tony has only ever spoken to them in Spanish. Mom and Dad only ever speak Spanish, so they hear it all the time. But Mom speaks English to them (unless I'm mad, or threatening consequences for bad behavior while out in public) :D. So they are audibly bilingual, at least. They can even translate to each other pretty well, also. 

One question we often get asked, though, is, "Why don't your kids speak Spanish?". I always answer what maybe isn't so obvious, "Because I'm American. I speak English at home."

And I'm lazy. Even though I get compliments all the time on my Spanish, people mistakenly think that it should be an easy thing for me to speak to my kids in Spanish. It's really not. Even after 20 years of speaking it fluently, it's just not normal for me. My mother tongue and heart language is English.

I often have to remind people that I am not, in fact, Argentinian. Being tall and fair I have no idea why I continually have to state the obvious. Even in Argentina. But anyway... if I were, in fact, Latin, then, yes, our kids would surely speak fluent Spanish. To help people understand: asking me to speak Spanish to my kids all the time would be like asking Tony to speak English to them all the time. It's just not the the natural thing to do. Besides, when our first was born in Argentina, I was worried he wouldn't learn ENGLISH. So I made it a point to only speak English to him (unless we were out in public and I wanted to "blend" - yeah right, me blend haha) - and the habit stuck. With all of them.

Now, I could choose to speak Spanish to them. But, honestly, I've tried it. Many times. It lasts for about 2 minutes. I'm too tired to exert myself any more than I already do. Ultimately, I trust God. I know that if He has the need for fluent Spanish in His plan for their future, they will learn it. I did. And I was 18 years old before I learned it fluently. It's not that big of a deal. They are half way there already.

And now here we are. On our way to Argentina... Maybe this is what I sensed all along. I knew, deep down, that I could trust God with it. I just knew. What can I say more than that? So, therefore, I take a more relaxed approach with foreign languages in our "homeschool". Because I can. No Rosetta Stone for us (although I hear it is good). Let's just go to the mission field instead. That's easier for me than trying to do Spanish ever day. Seriously.


1 comment:

Katie said...

I'm anxious to see how the bilingual saga plays out in our household when Daniel and I eventually have children. It's fun to read the list of words that your little one has picked up in the two languages. And forgive me for laughing, but it struck me funny that Jesus is "she-she." I love the pronunciations that kids come up with! :)

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