The niños are out of school for the summer and that means “¡El verano de español!” at la Casa López.
“¡El verano de español!” – (“Spanish Summer”) – originally started out with me simply committing to speak to my children only in Spanish all summer. At first it was a headache. I suffered self doubt and frustration with my own limitations in the language. I tried many methods, including bribery. I asked myself everyday if I was wasting my time. Finally, things started to get better for all of us, (though things did sometimes get lost in translation.)
Thankfully, by the end of the summer I had grown more comfortable and so I continued trying to speak Spanish to the kids as much as possible even when they had gone back to school.
Por supesto, there have been days conducted mostly in English – this usually happens when I’m tired or annoyed with Suegra and don’t want her to be privy to our conversations just out of pettiness – but for the most part, I think I’ve done well to make this an “OPOL” home. (The funny thing is, I’m the one speaking Spanish to the kids while Carlos speaks to them in English. I think we’d get better results if we traded roles, but whatever.)
So this summer I need to take things up a notch. I want the boys to respond to me more in Spanish and I want them to come up to grade level. What I’ve begun to do is ignore them when they speak English. (This sounds really mean typed out like that.) … My older son will talk to me for awhile and I’ll look at him blankly before saying, “¿Qué? No entiendo.” He will then usually roll his eyes and say, “Mommy, come on!” before sighing in annoyance and struggling to repeat it in Spanish. His vocabulary is actually very good, but he needs work on verb tense and accent.
My younger son has been much more agreeable. Yesterday he said, “Mommy, I’m hungry.” … I pulled out my “No entiendo” line and he smiled before saying, “Tengo hambre…muchachita bonita.” … I almost died laughing. I don’t know where he got the “muchachita bonita” from. Apparently Spanish translations require adding piropos.
My younger son’s vocabulary isn’t as extensive as his older brother’s but his accent and reading are fantastic. (I think this is due to the fact that I didn’t read in Spanish as much to my older son when he was little, as I did with my younger son.)
So both boys have different strengths and weaknesses which makes it more challenging for me to fine tune activities to best help them in the areas where they’re lacking.
Besides simply requiring them to speak Spanish more often, I have them doing writing and reading work in Spanish daily. This will usually be a worksheet from a book or one I just make up but one day last week it was something a little more creative. The boys wanted to sell “bolis” (ice pops) – so I told them they could, as long as the sign was bilingual.
Obviously, they made the sign without asking me for help so the Spanish isn’t totally correct, but we’re working on it.