Bilingual Parenting Takes Commitment… and Re-commitment

Sometimes I think I have the bilingual parenting thing down. We get into a groove and I’m speaking Spanish to my kids and they, more and more, are responding to me in Spanish – but it’s inevitable that just when we’ve hit our stride and are on the road to fluency, we will have a setback.

One big problem for me is that I don’t speak Spanish when I’m stressed or tired or very busy. The other day I woke up and realized, “My God, I’ve been stressed and tired and very busy the past few weeks! I’ve had so much on my mind and so many deadlines. I’ve barely spoken Spanish to my kids at all!”

This is when I kick myself in the nalgas and promise to start all over again.

Yesterday morning before my younger son left for school, I warned him not to run to the bus as he usually does, because a slick layer of frost covered the ground.

“Cuando venga el bus, no vayas corriendo, okay? El suelo está bien liso, entiendes?”

My son tilted his head not unlike a dog when you speak to it. I could almost see the words enter his ear, twist themselves inside his brain and translate one-by-one into English. He spoke aloud as he decoded the message.

“When the bus comes… don’t run… because…the ground is slippery?”

He still understands me, but there is more lag time. Then when he speaks, he doesn’t even realize he’s mixing English and Spanish in ways I’ve never even heard before.

After school he asked me what day we’re going to his grandmother’s house for Thanksgiving.

“El viente dos,” I said.
“Oh, el twenty dos,” he answered.

There’s no point in lamenting wasted time and stalled progress. I’m human, I was tired, I spent weeks speaking very little Spanish to my kids who I desperately want to be fully bilingual. It happens. Seguimos adelante.

____

Related: SpanglishBaby: Raising a Bilingual Child is Always a Work in Progress

Keep Calm & Respetense Uno al Otro

If you’re a fútbol fan, chances are you know a big game is on tonight. El Salvador vs. Mexico. (The U.S. vs. Guatemala also!)

If you’re Salvadoran or Mexican, you know that games between the two tend to stir up some animosity. Even though a lot of people tell me I’m naive to think I can make a difference, each time Mexico and El Salvador play each other, I tend to make a public appeal that the teams, as well as the fans, respect each other and the game. Carlos has told me before that I’m wasting my time and that the two will always be bitter rivals. There’s no problem with a little rivalry, but I still think we can be respectful rivals.

If I keep even one Salvadoran from throwing things at Chicharito, or encourage even one fan of El Tri to rethink and ultimately decide not to make an ignorant comment about Salvadorans, then I’ll be happy.

Here are two graphics I made which I encourage you to share around social media. Help me spread the word. Keep Calm and Respect Each Other. Mantengan la Calma y Respetense Uno al Otro.

Click for larger version.

Click for larger version.

While I was creating these graphics, I stumbled upon a photo of President Obama holding a blue T-shirt. I couldn’t help but do a little photoshopping.

Looks like Pres. Obama is a reluctant fan of La Selecta. I think his facial expression reflects what a lot of us are feeling about tonight’s game. We’ll put on the azul, but maybe we’re not feeling all that hopeful.

Either way, buena suerte to both teams. Win or lose, I hope they give us a good game.

Stories from el Corazón

On SpanglishBaby I talked about a non-profit organization called Story Corps which records people’s true stories to create a sort of archive of American history for future generations. Some of these stories have been animated, and I shared a really hilarious yet heartwarming video from the Story Corps collection called Facundo the Great – (go check it out on SpanglishBaby!)

While I clicked around on the Story Corps website, I found several other animated stories I loved just as much as Facundo the Great. Here are two more, and if you love them mucho, check out Story Corps for más.

Secando al Sol

Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. English translation is below!

“Mamá, la secadora no está secando,” dijo mi hijo mayor. Fui a ver que pasó y tenia razón – la secadora no queria ni encender. Me dejó escapar algunas malas palabras y luego hice lo que tenía que hacer. Saqué la ropa mojada y salí a la yarda, buscando una cuerda para tender la ropa a secar en el sol.

Resultó que no tuvimos suficiente dinero en nuestra cuenta por comprar una nueva secadora ni arreglar la que tenemos. Tuvimos que esperar una semana antes que pudieramos hacer cualquier cosa.

El primer día no estuve feliz y mi actitud era algo negativa. Traté de recordar que hay gente en el mundo que no sólo secan la ropa sin máquina cada día pero, mucho más fatigoso y difícil, lavan la ropa a mano también.

El segundo día mi actitud estaba un poco mejor pero algo chistosa. Empeze a imaginar que yo estaba practicando una habilidad de supervivencia y que mi familia estaba dependiendo de mí. “No estás orgulloso de mi?” pregunté a Carlos mientras doblé unas toallas rígidos pero secas.

“Orgulloso?” me preguntó.
“Sí, orgulloso que tu esposa todavia puede lavar tu ropa sin las conveniencias modernas!” dije.
“Oh…claro,” dijó Carlos en una manera poca convincente. (Y con razón, porque secando ropa al sol es algo común en El Salvador.)

En el momento que pudieramos llamar a alguien por arreglar la secadora, ya había empezado a gustarme secar la ropa a “la manera antigua”. Cada día esperaba tomar un descanso de la computadora, respirar el aire fresco, sentir la brisa y el calor del sol, escuchar los pájaros. Tener que colgar la ropa a secar me obligaba a salir afuera – algo que por lo general evito, pero sé que desesperadamente necesito hacer más a menudo.

Al final, tener la secadora quebrada fue una cosa positiva porque me recordó la importancia de vivir cada día – realmente vivir lo – no sólo dejarlo pasar.

[ENGLISH TRANSLATION]

“Mommy, the dryer isn’t drying!” said my older son. I went to see what happened and he was right – the dryer didn’t even want to turn on. I let out some bad words and then did what I had to do. I took the wet clothes and went out into the yard, looking for a rope to hang the clothes to dry in the sun.

It turned out we didn’t have enough money in our account to buy a new dryer or to even fix the one we have. We had to wait a week before we could do anything.

The first day I was not happy and my attitude was somewhat negative. I tried to remember that there are people in the world that not only dry the clothes without a machine every day, but even more tiresome and difficult, they wash the clothes by hand too.

The second day my attitude was a little better but funny, too. I started to imagine that I was practicing a survival skill and that my family was depending on me. “Are you proud of me?” I asked Carlos as I folded stiff but dry towels.

“Proud?” he asked.
“Yes, proud that your wife can still wash your clothes without modern conveniences!” I said.
“Oh … sure,” Carlos said in a way that wasn’t very convincing. (And rightly so, because sun-drying laundry is common in El Salvador.)

By the time we could call someone to fix the dryer, I had begun to like drying clothes “the old fashioned way.” Every day I looked forward to taking a break from the computer, breathing fresh air, feeling the breeze and the warm sun, listening to the birds. Having to hang clothes to dry forced me to go outside – something I generally avoid, but I know I desperately need to do more often.

In the end, having broken the dryer was a positive thing because it reminded me the importance of living every day – really live it – not just letting it pass by.

Comedy + Undocumented Immigration: Do they mix?

Scene from film short, La Línea

When I received an E-mail from a man named Evan about a film described as “An indie feature comedy about undocumented immigration” – I was intrigued but also wary. “How can undocumented immigration be funny?” I asked myself.

I continued to read Evan’s E-mail, giving him the benefit of the doubt and followed the link he gave me to a Kickstarter campaign where I could find out more. (Kickstarter is a website where one is able to raise funds for projects.) The project, Sun Belt Express, is a film he wants to produce – and, well, I’ll let him tell you about it.

Even after viewing this video and sensing real sincerity from this guy, I was still a little skeptical. Mixing comedy with such a sensitive topic wouldn’t be easy, and if done without care, could do a lot of harm. I didn’t want to endorse something I wasn’t totally certain about so I asked if I could see the full length version of the film short, La Línea, to get a sense of what he’s up to. After watching it, I was sold. I can see why La Línea received the recognition that it did at film festivals and I can’t wait to see more from Evan and his team. What they’re working on is something special – something that deserves to be made.

The more I think about it, what could be more representative of Latinos than the ability to find humor in even the most difficult of situations? It’s one of the things I identify with and admire most about the culture.

I started to think about Carlos’s journey to the United States and some of the stories he’s told me – and yes, there are some funny ones – Maybe I’ll share them here one day, but for now, if you want to know more about Sun Belt Express, click over to their Kickstarter campaign, support them with a donation, and spread the word so they can get funded before the fast approaching deadline.

La Bondad, Pásala – (Kindess, Pass it on)

Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. English translation is below!

Image source: Paul

Hay unos comerciales que salen en la televisión que no están vendiendo nada salvo la idea que podemos hacer actos de bondad, y practicar otras virtudes como la honestidad. Esos comerciales son producidos por La Fundación para una Vida Mejor y cuando los veo, a veces me sacan las lágrimas porque me pongo a pensar que bonito podría ser el mundo si todos intentaban tratar a los demás con amabilidad.

Puedes ver más comerciales en español de La Fundación para una Vida Mejor en su sitio de web, UnaVidaMejor.org. (Mi favorito no estaba disponible en YouTube. Aquí está.)

Viste los comerciales de La Fundación para una Vida Mejor? Cuál es tu favorito? Cómo te hacen sentir?

[ENGLISH TRANSLATION]

There are some commercials on TV that are not selling anything but the idea that we can do acts of kindness, and practice other virtues like honesty. These commercials are produced by The Foundation for a Better Life and when I see them, sometimes it brings tears to my eyes to think how beautiful the world could be if everyone just tried to treat others with kindness.

You can find more commercials in Spanish at the Foundation for a Better Life website, UnaVidaMejor.org. (My favorite was not available on YouTube. Here it is.)

Have you seen the commercials from the Foundation for a Better Life? Which is your favorite? How do they make you feel?

Let America Be America Again

On Independence Day I always think of the Langston Hughes poem, “Let America Be America Again.” Hughes is one of my favorite poets – a visionary writer who was ahead of his time and created works that still resonate more than 50 years later.

This poem is often controversial and has been called unpatriotic by some – but I think that it reflects reality, told in an unapologetic, honest way. We are a nation that values chest thumping patriotism and fosters an attitude of superiority – a belief that we are the favored children of God and our nation is uniquely blessed as a result. I don’t subscribe to that school of thought. I believe that we can love the United States and be thankful for the freedoms we have while being truthful and vocal about its imperfections at the same time.

On this day I am thankful to live in a country that allows me to say this without fear of repercussions and I am hopeful that we will continue to create high expectations for ourselves, as individual citizens, and as a nation. May we all do our part to live up to the dream.

Image source: Brittney Bollay

Let America Be America Again

by Langston Hughes

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!