Raising Bilingual Niños: Tip #2

Well, the niños are back to school which means summer, and “Spanish Summer“, is over. Does that mean I’m going to go back to speaking English with them? N’hombre! … If anything, now I need to make extra sure that I’m speaking Spanish with them here at home as most of their day will be in English with their friends and teachers. This is no longer a simple experiment or “jump start” for my children. We will now speak Spanish at home as much as possible, which is what we should have been doing from the start.

We all learned so much this summer, not just the niños, but me – and even my husband who is the only native speaker, (besides Suegra!) … One lazy Saturday morning I rolled over in bed and my husband kissed me good morning. Still half asleep I mumbled, “Now I’m hungry. I was dreaming about semita de higo.”

My husband said, “Higo?” and laughed at me, thinking I had made up a word. Later in the day I looked it up on the internet and showed him that it meant “fig” in English, but not knowing what a “fig” is either, he remained skeptical until we asked Suegra. Her very Salvadoran response to her son, “Higo! No sabes qué es higo, vos?! Puchica, ‘stas perdido, Tata.”

So, we continue to speak Spanish, and when I forget, slipping back into the comfort of English like a pair of sweat pants I should have thrown out a long time ago, even the children remind me in their own way. Just this morning my 8 year old got ready for school and then plopped down beside me in bed.

“What do you want to do?” he asked.
“We could read ‘Rats of NIMH’?” I said, referring to a chapter book we’ve been reading each night before bed.
“Nah,” he responded, “That’s only for noche.”

Noche. It came out of his mouth so naturally, without even thinking, his accent changing just for that one word. My kids are now responding to me in Spanglish, and sometimes even in perfect Spanish, when I’ve mistakenly spoken English to them. The tables have turned! Earlier this year it was me who would stubbornly respond in Spanish to their English, all the while, wondering if I was wasting my time.

And so the lesson (and tip #2) – Keep at it. Stay strong. Be patient. Speak to your children in Spanish as much as possible. Even if it seems like they’re ignoring you, annoyed with you, or not catching on, trust that the gears are turning and words are being filed away. Don’t forget to keep it fun and find Spanish in unexpected places. Take a “field trip” to the Latino Market, or Lowe’s Home Improvement center. That seems like a random thing to say, but check out the video and you’ll see what I mean.

And just in case anyone is wondering, Lowe’s didn’t pay me to make this video in any way. (I think they were actually kind of annoyed with us running around their store.) … Of course, if they’d like to re-model my house to say ‘thanks’, they should feel free to E-mail me.


    • @ Carrie – Thanks :) Glad you’re enjoying the videos. Kids are in school now but I’ll try to make more soon.

  1. gosh!! do we have things in common!! I’m so glad I stumbled upon your blog! I love higos!! my neighbor has a tree and gave me a bag today! yum!!

    I’m glad you got the package!! enjoy the bubu lubus! And hopefully they’re still edible after the trip! I told the post office guy like 20 times that they were very fragile. Espero que me haya echo caso y no hayas recibido un batido de chocolate.

    Enjoy the rest of your week!

    • @ MJ – I don’t think I’ve actually had a real live higo. What are they like? … I’ve only had them smashed and cooked up like jelly :)

      Don’t worry about the Bubu Lubus. They made the journey safely but even if they’d been smashed and melted, I’d still love them. LOL.

  2. Off topic…. going WAAAAY back to April 14, I found Whole Annatto at an international spice stall in a market in Vancouver this weekend! I am so excited, now I can make your Empanadas Recipe! I also found the right flour to make pupusas! I was jumping with glee when I found it. Too bad it costs about $100 to get to Vancouver and back these days, but since I was there anyways….

    • @ *pol – Yay!! Fantastic! I’m so glad you finally found what you need. Can’t wait to hear your results! Good luck!

    • @ Kim – That is a great tip! I would film that too except the employees always watch self checkout so suspiciously!

  3. My mom always called them “brevas”. She loves her brevas con arequipe (dulce de leche). The figs are dried like plums and mixed in with the dulce de leche. I love the dulce but I just don’t like figs but I like Fig Newtowns, go figure.


    • @ Luis – Love Fig Newtons, too – but my classmates grossed me out in Elementary school because the rumor was that those little crunchy pieces, (which I assume are seeds?), the kids used to say they were ant heads. LOL.

  4. My favorite part was when you put the hat on Older Son. I get that look (which is much more of a sigh than a look, don’t you think?) a million times a day. Poor pre-teens. They still want to go with us, be included, tag along and play like the little ones do, and yet, they feel too old, or mature, or cool, to actually HAPPILY participate, so they “tolerate” us and “parent” the little ones. At least that’s what happens here. And btw, we have a million fig trees in California, are there none near you? In fact, we have family with some, and there are many, many fig trees on my street. If I can figure out how to send you one, I will. I don’t think I like them, but, to be honest, I’m basing this on a childhood taste, which we know doesn’t count anymore, lol. My inlaws LOVE them, seriously eat them all day when they are in season.

  5. The vid reminds me of my time in Canada. Everything in the stores is labeled in French and English, so you pick up quite a bit just by being exposed to it in that manner.

    Coincidentally, I also learned some of the conversion rates to metric as a result as some of the packaging was geared towards the US and Canadian market. For example, I have it ingrained in my head that 1 lb. = 454 grams.

  6. As is the norm, I am a day late and a dollar short. I am only commenting on rolling the r’s. If you get your children to repeat Pot of Tea, prononced all together…it comes out sounding like para te. Also, ferrocarril. Good luck and just maybe one day I will catch up with the present.

    • Thanks for the comment, Libby. My older son has since learned to roll his r’s – but it’s not consistent. Sometimes it just happens and he stops talking to make note of it – just mid-sentence he’ll be like, “Did you hear that?!” … lol. Younger son is still working on it!

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