Raising a (kind of) bilingual baby
The Popple is bilingual. Kind of. Actually, she’s technically not lingual at all yet, unless you count her indiscriminate yelling of “Dadadayayaya”. But she lives in a two-language household.
Here’s the set-up:
Adrian: Native Spanish speaker from Puerto Rico.
Me: Studied Spanish for six years in school, tested out of the language requirement at university, then lost most of my Spanish due to lack of use. While I retained some vocabulary, I forgot how to string sentences together, so ‘speaking Spanish’ consists of me yelling random words in an embarrassing American accent.
Although Adrian and I speak English to each other 95% of the time, we’ve started to refer to some things in Spanish since the Popple was born. The Popple throws her food on the piso, not the floor. She repeatedly points at the luz, not the light (because she finds the word luz HILARIOUS). She’s obsessed with the colour green, so we refer to everything green as a verde. That green triangle from her shape sorting box, the number three cup in her set of stacking cups, the plastic sparkling water bottles she gets so excited about – all verdes.
She drinks with a cup but eats with a cuchara. She brushes her teeth with a cepillo but gets washed with a washcloth. Daddy takes the guagua to work, but we ride to city centre on the train.
Adrian occasionally speaks to her solely in Spanish, and I participate in their conversations by interjecting song lyrics I’ve picked up from the Popple’s favourite children’s show, Atención Atención.
“Había un sapo, sapo, sapo que nadaba en el río, río, río (There was a frog, frog, frog, he was swimming in the river, river, river),” I say, apropos of absolutely nothing, because this song WILL NOT GET OUT OF MY HEAD.
It all seems pretty confusing to me, but apparently babies are able to distinguish between similar languages from about six months. Her growing brain is absorbing our weird Spanglish like a sponge, not that she’ll have many chances to use it in Scotland. Maybe we’ll just need to holiday in Spain. A lot. It will be a sacrifice, all that sun and sangria, but it will be worth it for the Popple to have the opportunity to hear and use the language we’re so desperate for her to learn.
“Luz!” she’ll shout as she points at the sun.
“Yes,” we’ll say. “There’s a luz in the sky. Imagine that.”