Bilingual baby

Today I got the first evidence that the zunzun understands Spanish. (I am maybe the last of his three caretakers to get it? Ironic because I spend the most time with him, though I also speak the least Spanish with him…)

I don’t know how much I’ve said here about bilinguality, but it has been our intention to have the boy speak Spanish as best as we can make that happen. So, when A is alone with him, she speaks almost exclusively Spanish. Our babysitter, who is here usually three times a week, is Colombian, and speaks only Spanish with him. When I am alone with him, I maaaaaybe hit 20%? Maybe more like 15%. We all read to him in both languages. And he takes a music class in Spanish. When the three of us are together, it’s almost always English (or, more accurately, it’s English between A and I, and when she speaks directly to him, it goes either way). It’s our default, and I don’t have the facility to engage in any kind of extensive adult conversation.

But today! Today while I was changing the zunzun, he was holding onto a little elephant toy. I was trumpeting, as I do, and he started imitating me. I encouraged it — “Yeah! The elephant says ‘[trumpet]’! El elefante dice ‘[trumpet]’!”

The whole exchange lasted only for the duration of the diaper change (like one more minute?), and then we went to have a snack. Mid-snack, I said, “Zunzun, que dice el elefante?” AND HE ANSWERED WITH A TRUMPET!

So we called up mami, who is away teaching until Tuesday, and he repeated the trick on the phone for her. Then on the phone for my parents. (I find it so unrewarding when he learns something new and nobody else is there to show it off to…) He even obliged with his other animal sound: dog (though he won’t answer the question if you use “dog,” only if you use the name of my parents’ dog).

A was, of course, thrilled beyond measure — the bilinguality is, of course, her heart-project. But I confess I was more excited than I thought I’d be. It’s working!

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7 thoughts on “Bilingual baby

  1. That’s awesome!

    Living in Canada, I’d like the kids to learn French, at least on a conversational level, and I know it’d mean a lot to my mom, who was born in Germany, if they also learned some degree of German, though I don’t speak it well, so it’s doubtful they’ll pick up more than a handful of words unless they take it in high school or university. It’s hard though, because Jen doesn’t speak French or German. I guess we’ll see how it all plays out…

    • i think i’m so excited because i was so doubtful it was working. while i understand quite a lot of spanish, i don’t speak well — though simple baby-friendly sentences are fine. how’s your french? we couldn’t do the much-advised one-language-per-parent route, but it seems to be filtering through anyway…

  2. I’m sure he’ll get it (as evidenced by elefante!). I love overhearing the mixed-language conversations that people have around my desk–so fluidly in and out of English and Spanish within the same sentences or even phrases. He’s going to be able to join in that fun, for sure!

  3. zz is so lucky to have bilingual moms! Izzy is in a Spanish immersion school but W and I speak 98% English to her as our Spanish is conversational, but no way fluent/automatic. I find it really interesting what phrases she uses in Spanish and what she says in English. Most common commands “wash-hands” “clean-up” “sit down” “look!” are in Spanish because she learned them in school. My favorite is when she tells the dog “mira, Thali, aqui”

  4. We’re teaching sweet lou spanish as well. I speak a little but grew up in Miami so I understand a lot more then I speak. My wife is Bolivian and speaks to him spanish as does her parents. His teachers at daycare are also spanish and speak to him. He answer si and no when asked questions so we proclaim him to be bilingual! He also says hola when answering his elm.o phone.

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