Preparing for the 2nd Spanish/English Dilemma

Karla will be starting school this fall and she's very excited.  We talk about it often and she just smiles and says, "I'm a big girl."  Since she knows she's going to school she has been trying out her Enlgish.  Sometimes we hear her speaking to Gaby in English, but Gaby, interestingly, repsonds to her in Spanish.  She really catches our attention when she speaks English to Andrea.  She says many thing some comprehensible and others not so comprehensible.  Andrea just babbles back to her.  Karla's two most common phrases are "What you say me?" and "Whatcha doin'?"  We find this very cute and interesting since our oldest didn't speak English at home until she started school.  Also, we notice that Karla knows more English at this age than Gaby did.

Well, this prompted a conversation between my husband and me.  He feels that Karla will resist speaking Spanish more than Gaby did.  This had never ocurred to me.  He feels this way because Karla is very strong willed and does only what she wants.  She will do what others want her to do once she feels like doing it.  Also, he feels that her practicing sooner may be an indication that she prefers English already but hasn't begun to use it because she doesn't know enough yet.  He's concerned since he has the most to lose if any of our girls ever stop speaking English. His English is limited and his family speaks no English.

My response to him was that as long as we continue with her as we have with Gaby we'll be fine.  (English at school, Spanish at home unless it's academic related.)  I told him that in this battle we have an extra man, Gaby.  She's doing great in retaining her Spanish and as long as she continues, Karla will see the norm and do it as well.  In addition, we still have little Andrea who we are still speaking Spanish to, and if she wants to communicate with her little sister it has to be in Spanish.

Ultimately, we decided that we would definitely keep an eye on this once she starts school and that we would work on this together.  This conversation did make me think, maybe she's just practicing for when she starts school.  Maybe he's right, this is the beginning of her liking English more.  Or maybe her parents are over reacting too soon.  I'll keep you updated.  Ay Mamá!



Karla with book bag

Karla trying out her book bag for school.



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  • This sounds like a great solution to a common dilemna! As the only Spanish speaking person in our home, I am jealous of the opportunities your children are getting from having two parents who can naturally reinforce the great benefits of being dual language learners. I wish I could offer more exposure not only to the language, but the culture as well. But I won't give up :)

  • In reply to mtmooney:

    Please don't give up, if you do then they have lost the connection to the language and the culture. Also, if you continue to expose them to the language and the culture they may get curious and hopefully want to learn the language and about the culture on their own. Good luck.

  • In reply to mtmooney:

    As a first-generation born Latvian-American, I know the battles of maintaining language. However, my girls are now 2nd generation speaking Latvians and they are doing fine. They speak Latvian with one another playing, but Evija being the youngest, has used more English words lately than Lilija ever did. She knows the same words in Latvian, but sometimes uses them in English. However, I'm not worried. I did the same thing as a young girl, and here I now am with 2nd generation speakers. It evens out. Do not worry about any of your daughters losing their language skills. Keep speaking Spanish and it won't die.

  • In reply to anitarudite:

    Thank you for your comment and advice. I remember growing up that my parents never let us speak English to them and we could only speak English to each other if it was homework related. We all kept the language at different levels but there definitely isn't a communication gap. Thank you for your advice, we definitely won't stop speaking them in Spanish or else my husband will lose out and we don't want that.

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