A Bilingual Story
“¡Mira mami! Look!” I yell out as we walked along the gravel path near grandma and grandpa’s house.
“¿Qué mi lindo? ¿qué es?” She says as she stops walking and looks over to where I am standing.
“Mira, arriba. Es un butterfly…mariposa” I say watching it float away to rest on a leaf.
“Si, es una mariposa. Es muy linda, ¿no es cierto? ¿De qué color es?” She asks, even though she knows what color it is.
I look up to see where it has landed and tell mami “BLUE…¡azul!”
“Muy bien mi niño, es una mariposa azul” And we stand there quietly watching it flutter away.
Then changing the subject I ask “Mami, can we go playground?”
“¿Quieres ir al parque?”
Quickly I think, “Si mami, vamos al parque por favor”
“Ya, pero dame un beso” and I give her the kiss she asked for.
See, mami means business when it comes to speaking ONLY Spanish to me. As some of you may know she is chilena or Chilean and papi is from the United States. They both know and speak English but want me to grow up speaking both of them.
For every word in English that I say, I also know one in Spanish and it’s all thanks to mami. I can count, I can tell you the names of insects in both languages and colors too! And we do lots of repetitions and games. So if I say “hat” mami says “HAT. GORRO” “HAT GORRO” and I say it with her.
Even if I speak to her in English, she won’t respond in it, and she helps me find the right words in Spanish if I don’t know them by showing me or acting it out. I wasn’t lying when I said she was serious! But sometimes we have miscommunication problems, or more like lost in translation issues. I was sitting with her on the sofa a few days ago and I turned to her and said “¿mami, lentes?” pointing to her face.
Mami starred back, not really understanding and said “¿Qué?” and I said it again, “LENTES, mami”
But she still didn’t understand me (I have problems with the ‘L”).
So to make it easier for both of us, I decided to use the word in English because I know she would understand and said “GLASSES mami, ¿dónde están tus glasses?”
“Ahhhh” she said and I could tell she was impressed at the way I decided to use English instead. “Los guardé. Son solamente para leer” they are only for reading she said.
And then we carried on our day. Mami speaking Spanish and papi in English.
Knowing more than one way to say things, or being bilingual really does make you think on your feet. At the moment of meeting someone you have to decide in one second what language to use and I think I’m pretty good at it.
When I’m with my grandma and grandpa I know that they only speak English. When I see my Omama and Tata (that’s mami’s parents) I immediately know to speak Spanish to them.
See, es muy simple.
So I may only be three (well, my birthday is in two weeks) but I am bilingual!
What about papi, you ask? His Spanish has improved. A lot! He even talks to me now, although his accent isn’t as good as mine. But don’t’ tell him that.
Do you speak more than one language in your home? We would love to hear about how you are raising your kids bilingual and about other games and activities that you do!
María José Ovalle
I am a mamá to a soon to be 3 year old boy and we have just moved back to the US after living in the UK for the past six years. I am a PR by profession and in 2010 began blogging from my son’s point of view. I now work as a freelance writer and Social Media consultant. I am also Chilean, bilingual and running a half marathon in March. Oh and I love the stage…AmDram is where it’s at!