¿Cómo se dice SPORK?


Over the weekend we got some takeout food for dinner. At home, I dumped the bag of sauce packets, napkins and plastic utensils onto the table.

“Hand me one of those forks, please,” Carlos said.
“It’s not a fork,” I said, holding it up.
“Hand me… one of those thingies,” he said.

(Carlos’s English includes the word “thingies” since apparently I say that a lot.)

“It’s called a ‘spork’ – It’s a spoon-fork, see?” I handed the plastic utensil to him.
“Spork, okay,” he said, taking it from me, more eager to eat than to get a vocabulary lesson.

I took a bite of my food and chewed thoughtfully.

“How do you say ‘spork’ in Spanish?” I asked.
“You don’t,” Carlos answered.
“There’s no word for ‘spork’?”
“Oh!” I became excited. “Hold on, okay, let’s see… In Spanish, ‘spoon’ is ‘cuchara’ and ‘fork’ is ‘tenedor’ so a spork could be… CUCHADOR!”

I fell in love with the new word immediately.

“You can’t do that,” Carlos said.
“You can’t just make words up.”
“I just did! This is a cuchador! And I’m going to go tell the whole internet!”

After dinner I went online and typed “How do you say ‘spork’ in Spanish?” just to make sure Carlos was right, that there wasn’t already a word that existed. To my amusement, Carlos was wrong and there is actually already a word… and it’s ‘cuchador.’ I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t invent a new word, but I’m impressed that my bilingual brain came up with the correct word by putting together what it already knows. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t, but it doesn’t hurt to give it a try!

Raising Bilingual Teens & The 5 Stages of Grief

funny bilingual parenting comic by Latinaish.com

“Tenemos que hablar más …porque… tengo que pensar… por… cada… palabra,” my 15 year old son told me recently in halting Spanish as we walked around the international market. His Spanish is good but far from fluent.

Our 12 year old speaks even less than our 15 year old although he understands everything I say to him and voluntarily plays Club Penguin in Spanish, “just because.” He also switches to Spanish to get my attention. On a daily basis you can hear something like this in our house:

“Mommy, can I have a cookie?… Mommy… Hey, Mommy… Mamá, quiero una galleta.” — to which I finally answer him. Some parents do this on purpose so their children don’t speak English at home, but in my case, sometimes I’m just so focused on what I’m doing that I tune everyone out. Only the jolt of unexpected Spanish is what breaks my concentration.

Despite the fact that Spanish and Spanglish are still spoken on a daily basis in our household, we’ve begun to speak it less and less. I’ve said before that raising bilingual children “takes constant commitment and re-commitment” but it feels like we’ve been hitting pretty hard on the frequency and necessity of re-committing this past year.

You see, in my experience bilingual parenting, unlike most things you practice, does not get easier. In fact, I would argue that bilingual parenting only gets more and more difficult the older your children get.

Think about it – when your children are very young, one of the first questions they learn and repeat ad nauseam is, “What’s that?” … For parents raising bilingual children, even if the target language isn’t your native language, things start out pretty easy.

“What’s that?”
– Una manzana.
“What’s that?”
– El color verde.
“What’s that?”
– La luna.
“What’s that?”
– Un gato.

What a sense of accomplishment! You’re doing it! You’re really doing it! You’re raising a bilingual child!

Of course, the reality is that the older your child gets, the more complex his questions. Apple, green, moon, and cat are part of your vocabulary and now your child’s – no problem, but how do you answer:

“Where do babies come from?”
“What’s the difference between a Republican and a Democrat?”
“Why don’t birds get electrocuted when they sit on power lines?”
“How come it looks like the moon follows me when we drive in the car?”
“What’s endosymbiosis?”
“What exactly is a black hole?”
“What does ‘birth control’ mean?”
“Can you explain antidisestablishmentarianism?”
“If ‘X’ equals 32.4 and a train is traveling at 68 miles per hour…”

Nevermind answering those questions in Spanish – I may need Google’s help, (and a few aspirin) just to answer them in my native language! Apple, green, moon and cat will no longer be sufficient.

As a parent attempting to raise bilingual children, making mistakes along the way, and having setbacks, you often tell yourself, “It’s okay, there’s still time” – and yet, that time does run out, which is what you face as a parent of teenagers.

So, this is where we stand at the moment. We keep trying and will fight to the end to raise bilingual children, but I am at a point where I’m forced to accept that unless I drop them off in El Salvador for the next couple years, they most likely will not be native speaker fluent.

If your children are tweens or teens, you may be beginning to go through “the five stages of grief” if their Spanish isn’t as perfect as you had hoped. For me, it went something like this:

1. Denial – My kids are totally bilingual! They’re doing great!
2. Anger – Why aren’t they replying in Spanish! Whose fault is this?!
3. Bargaining – If they can just speak Spanish really well, not even perfectly, I’ll be happy.
4. Depression – This is my fault. I’m a failure as a parent.
5. Acceptance – I’ve done my best and will continue to try my hardest. All the effort has been worth it, and I’m okay with the result even if it falls short of perfection.

Just know that wherever you’re at on this bilingual parenting journey, you’re not alone, and like any other aspect of parenting, you’re not always going to get things exactly right.

Most importantly of all, don’t give up.

“There is no failure except in no longer trying.”
– Elbert Hubbard

T.V. en Spanglish


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. Scroll down for English translation!

Carlos estaba mirando la televisión y yo estaba escribiendo, cuando escuché este anuncio bilingüe. Yo grabé el anuncio para que todos ustedes pudieran verlo también. ¿Tal vez algún día todos los anuncios en los Estados Unidos serán bilingües?

¿Qué opinas tú? ¿Te gusta ver los anuncios de televisión bilingües más que los anuncios monolingües?


Carlos was watching television and I was writing, when I overheard this bilingual commercial. I videotaped the commercial so all of you can see, too. Maybe some day all commercials in the United States will be bilingual?

What do you think? Do you like to watch bilingual television advertisements more than monolingual advertisements?

Conversations at Casa López – Part 3

Here are the latest “bilingual moments” and funny conversations from Casa López!


“Mira el niño bajo de la blanketa.”

– My 11 year old pointing out a kid hiding under a blanket


Me: You’ve been eating so many apples lately.
Carlos: I love apples.
Me: I can tell.
Carlos: I’m like that guy you told me about, Johnny Apple Cider.
Me: Johnny Appleseed.
Carlos: I’m a different guy. I’m his cousin.


Me: What else do you want me to pack in your lunch?
Carlos: Tex Mex.
Me: Huh?
Carlos: Tex Mex.
Me: I… didn’t cook any Tex Mex?
Carlos: The one in that cabinet.
Me: Oooooh. CHEX MIX.


11 year old: Mommy, remember that girl in Kindergarten who could only speak Spanish?
Me: Yeah, I remember her. How is she?
11 year old: She speaks English really well now!
Me: Oh, really? That’s good.
11 year old: Yeah, she speaks well but she has an accent kind of like Daddy when he says ‘stop’, like ‘estop.’
Carlos: Hey.


Me: Go wash your hands in the sink but try not to make a mess.
11 year old: Can you please speak English? I don’t know what you’re saying.
Me: I was speaking English!
11 year old: Well then, that’s just weird.

Carlos: I thought you said the dog would calm down after the nudity.
{The kids bust out laughing}
Tracy: Um… neutering?
Carlos: Nudity?
Carlos: NUDITY!
{me and the boys laughing}
Carlos: You said the dog would calm down after they fixed him.


Related Posts:

Conversations at Casa López
Conversations at Casa López – Part 2

Conversations at Casa López – Part 2

It’s that time again. As I mentioned in the first edition of “Conversations at Casa López” – there is usually at least one funny conversation in our bilingual household each day. You know how when older people get mixed up and say, “Sorry, I’m having a senior moment”? Well, I call these “bilingual moments” and I’ve been writing them down the past few months to share with you. Here we go!

Me: Dame un cucharo por favor.
Carlos: {laughing} What?
Me: The knife, give me the knife.
Carlos: Cuchillo.
Me: I swear I knew that.


[Talking about a friend he’s unhappy with.]

Carlos: He fell off the motorcycle.
Me: What motorcycle? What?
Carlos: Don’t you say that in English?
Me: What are you talking about?
Carlos: In El Salvador, when you don’t like a person anymore, you say se cayó de la moto.


Carlos: Can you put lotion in my back?
Me: In it?
Carlos: Yes.
Me: Are you SURE? You want me to put lotion IN your back?
Carlos: On.


11 year old: Buenos días, mamá. [Kisses my forehead while I’m still in bed]
Me: [smiling] Eres un niño dulce.
11 year old: I’m a candy?


[Giving a spelling test to our 11 year old.]

Carlos: Damness.
11 year old: Whaaat??
Carlos: DAMNESS.
11 year old: Daddy, let me see that, [Pulls book toward himself] … That says DAMPNESS.
Carlos: DAMNESS… You know what I mean!
11 year old: No Daddy, I actually didn’t. I thought you were saying a bad word.


[Carlos yelling at our 11 year old who was rough housing with the dog.]

Carlos: Don’t let the dog bite you like that. One day he’s going to bite your ear off and you’ll look like that artist… What’s his name?
Me: Van Gogh.
Carlos: Yeah, you’ll look like Vengo.


[At a Salvadoran restaurant. The waitress had been speaking Spanish to us the entire time but when she came to check on us during our meal, she accidentally spoke in English and caught herself.]

Waitress: How is every— oh! [pauses, bows head and closes her eyes]
11 year old: [whispering] Did she fall asleep?
Me: No, she’s just trying to switch her brain back to Spanish. The gears get stuck sometimes.


What has been your funniest bilingual moment lately?

The Random Aventuras of Tracy & Carlos

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 in italics!


Este video no es completamente en español y la verdad es que uno tiene que ser bilingüe por entender todo – pero así es nuestra vida. Lo siento a los que no entienden todo pero ojalá todos disfrutan de alguna manera.

This video is not completely in Spanish and the truth is that you have to be bilingual to understand everything – but that’s how we live. Apologies in advance to those that don’t understand everything but hopefully everyone enjoys it in some way.

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