Saturday, 8 December 2007

¡Preparados, listos, YA!

So, Laniña has really come on in her English over the last few weeks, which is great. She has, however, started speaking English to me, which she never used to do. I get up to 70% English perhaps, though she still hangs onto her favourite Spanish words like niños - I don´t think she ever calls them children!

But we did have a wee Spanish breakthrough today: we were playing running up and down, saying Preparados, listos, YA (ready, steady, GO) and she started bossing me, saying who´s turn it was to say the words. And for the first time she got the idea of me/you correct!! Hooray!

(She should, of course, say me toca a mí - it´s my turn; or te toca a tí - it´s your turn. Instead, though, she has had a tendency to use me toca papá, trying to say Daddy´s go. Of course this is because me toca is what I say when it is my go, so she copies that. Logical, really!)

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

He fixed the car!

So, sometimes Laniña just babbles still, though increasingly it´s becoming clearer that some of what I can´t yet understand her saying is nevertheless an attempt to say something.

A couple of days ago, in the car, she said "wa wa wa wo coche" with definite emphasis on coche, meaning car, since that´s a word she has known for ages and knows well. So this was definitely some sort of sentence; I wondered what it meant...

She repeated it a few times, getting increasingly sure of what she was saying, while I became increasingly baffled - suddenly, just as she seemed about to give up, the penny dropped:

"OH, ha arreglado el coche" (What on earth? That mean´s He´s fixed the car)(!)
"¡SÍ, ha arreglado el coche!" Ana was delighted about this, and said it again a couple of times more, to make sure I got the point.

But really, where did that come from; was that really what she was saying? And it dawned upon me that, when she had first said it (it had taken me quite a while to catch on), we had in fact been passing by the garage, where the man had, indeed, fixed the car.

I guess I must have mentioned it, and somehow it just came back to her as we were passing! I chat over all sorts of random stuff when I´m with here, repeating myself a lot I guess, since my vocabularly would be more limited than that of a native speaker of Spanish. So it looks like my random chat is good - some of it sticks!

Saturday, 3 November 2007


Wow, interesting experience this afternoon - I was alone with Laniña; she was looking out the window and I was dictating notes into my mp3 player about an idea I had for another blog entry. Suddenly she began to shout at me, with great anger, "NO, PAPÁ STOP IT! STOP IT!"

I couldn´t really figure out what the problem was, until I began dictating again, only this time in Spanish - she suddenly calmed down.

This seemed bizarre at first, since she hears me speaking English all the time with her mother; but of course that´s what the problem was - her mother wasn´t there, Laniña thought I was speaking to her in English and it really freaked her out!

That´s probably good, right?

Friday, 2 November 2007


Laniña's pronunciation has been getting clearer over the last weeks and months. Sometimes, though, that just makes her mistakes easier to spot. She quite frequently gets consonants or whole syllables mixed round - two examples came up yesterday:

in English, naming plastic fruit for her granny -
[apple] "apple"
[banana] "banana"
[pear] "a fruit" (!)
[lemon] "melon"

Granny thought that she thought the lemon really was a melon, but I think she just got the sounds mixed up.

Granny also gave her a new dressing gown, which I have been calling (hope it's right) in Spanish una bata. But Laniña says "tapa".

Also, she still leaves off the initial consonant to some words "wimming" for swimming, for example. Well, we´re not running for speech therapy yet, but just keep an eye on it maybe.


Ok, this has little to do with Spanish or bilingualism, but I guess that other parents of toddlers between 2-3 years old might find it interesting to note that my daughter's favourite phrase at the moment is to shout, preferably at the most inopportune moment, "NO! STOP IT! DON'T TOUCH IT!"

When she's being calmer and cuter she likes to introduce us as: "This is the Mummy one and this Daddy one."

Ho hum... the joys of parenthood.

Monday, 29 October 2007


Here's an interesting conversation we had the other day; it was shortly after the appearance of Laniña's new obsession with pumpkins in the run up to Hallowe'en:

Mummy: Tell Daddy what we did today.
Laniña: Pumkin! Liddl punkin!
Papá: Ooo ... una calabaza, ¡qué bien!
Mummy: And what did we put in the little pumpkin?
Laniña: On telly!
Mummy: Yes, the pumpkin´s sitting on the TV. And what´s in the pumpkin?
Laniña: Ummm... punkin telly!
Papá: ¿Y qué hay dentro de la calabaza? ¿Una vela?
Laniña: Yes Mummy! Punkin candle! Light!

So, she knew the word candle well enough (because I didn´t tell it to her), it was the question she was having trouble understanding, and once I helped her figure out what it meant (by saying it in Spanish and giving the answer), she was able to answer in English. This is not what I was trying to do at all - I was just entering into the conversation. I didn´t really think she understood vela, nor was I sure she´d remember the word candle! She's an impressive wee kid.

Increasingly she is participating in conversations by translating things for the other parent:

Papá: ¡Mira - las vacas!
Laniña: Yes! Look Mummy - cows!

But she´s also happy simply to mix the two languages if she can´t remember the word in the language she´s speaking. And in some cases she simply doesn´t seem to have learnt (or is simply choosing not to use) a word in one of her languages. For example, she has never once used the word "children" and instead always uses the Spanish niños, even when speaking English. "I want go park. Want play niños." Cool, huh?

Saturday, 8 September 2007


The best thing about using Spanish with my daughter is that we bought a lot of Spanish DVDs for her to watch and I therefore feel a lot less guilty than I otherwise would about letting her watch a lot of TV!!

It has been interesting to see how quickly she learnt to master control of the DVD player, and soon found that she was able to change the language by pressing a particular button. At first she would watch a programme in any of the available languages (but clearly pleased and interested in the different sounds: when she was bored with something, she would happily simply change the language and watch it again). But increasingly she started to avoid the French and Arabic versions of her then favourite film, Bambi 2, and just choose between English or Spanish. That was when she was about 2, and shortly afterwards the Audio button on the machine began to lose its appeal.

I did notice last week, however, that she still seems to have a definite affinity for Catalán. And she still at times chooses to watch Teletubbies or Las Mellizas in that language rather than Castellano.*

*note for non-hispanists: What we foreigners refer to as Spanish is Castellano, the language of Castile (central Spain). Catalán is a regional language which is increasingly spoken in Barcelona, throughout Catalunya and in Andorra.

Thursday, 6 September 2007


Well, it's been a while and a lot has happened... what I had originally intended to be a chronological account of Laniña's linguistic development will now I think become random observations as they occour to me - that should be easier, so I might blog more often!

This is from months ago, though, when she was 2 and a bit:

We noticed that Laniña had suddenly started to ask for treats (y'know - chocolate and such) by calling them "F'you!" Indeed, this was one of her first proper sentences - "I wan' f'you!"

F'you, of course, is "for you" and presumably someone at nursery (or who knows, maybe it was us) had given her something nice saying "That´s for you" or similar. So far so good; it's so cute that we still haven't thought to discourage it!

The interesting bit is that suddenly, when she wasn´t getting the appropriate response from my partner (already had enough choc for one day) Laniña turned straight to me and demanded "Papá, PA TI"

Pa tí is, of course, short for para tí, which means... guess what! That´s right - for you!

I find such spontaneous translation a very exciting development - she´s not just parroting what she hears, but has real control over it herself. Even if no-one outside our household will actually understand it!!!

Monday, 21 May 2007

Spanish words I have learnt with my daughter.

In no particular order...


can you guess what they are? The answers aren´t in the right order:

swings, scooter, nappy, cot, poo, blanky, bowl, changing-mat, seagull, slide, to slide, butterfly, ladybird, buckle, to crawl, baby bottle

Spanish or German?

Well, once I had decided to go for it, the other big decision was: Spanish or German?? German is my other other language, if you know what I mean. In it's favour were that we know another family who are raising their daughter bilingually with German, but I had been doing Spanish a lot longer, and my confidence with Spanish was much better. I was particularly conderned that I would mess up on the genders of simple words and basically just not know enough vocabulary.

Anyway, I need hardly have worried so much. I'm still glad we went with Spanish (better beaches) but really, there are soooo many words that just don't seem to get covered in your usual university degree: y'know - nappy, teddy, poo, crawl, Big Bird... that it has been a real learning experience and would have been just as good in either language. Kids don't really speak that much for months, so that gives plenty of time to check stuff in the dictionary!

Saturday, 21 April 2007


Laniña is my daughter, by the way. It´s not her real name; "la niña" is Spanish for "the wee girl"

I just don´t want for her to fall out with me when she finds out that I´ve been detailing her toddler years for everyone else to read!

Thursday, 19 April 2007

making my mind up

Well, I first heard about one other person who was speaking to their child in a non-native language... and then another... and, while I didn't know these people myself, reports were positive and kids un-messed up!

I tried to practise with the cat, only communicating with him in Spanish. Well, perhaps not communicating... (bit demotivating that, actually. Don´t really recommend it)

And then I just sort of decided to relax about it. The main thing was not to affect Laniña´s English, but there was little fear of that since she would be surrounded by English all the time. All the research suggested that there might be a bit of a delay in her speech development, but hey, it´s not a race. Did I want her to be able to speak Spanish? Yeah, but that wasn´t the most important thing. I´d be really pleased if it worked out with her becoming completely bilingual, but just having a bit of Spanish would also be a good result. Just making things a bit easier for if she wanted to learn it later on. And if I wasn´t enjoying it or if I felt it wasn´t working out... well, I could just stop, couldn´t I?

(still going two and a half years later!)

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

in the beginning...

I'd been in a dither all through the pregnancy, and indeed even before that! In fact I'd definitely said, having been asked, that I'd just speak to any child of mine in English - well, it'd be weird, wouldn't it, talking foreign? (Not really, as it turns out!)

And there was a confidence issue also - I mean, my Spanish was good, I knew that. Fluent, even. But was it good enough? I mean, I didn't want to mess up the poor kid!

What I knew was that many people had sucessfully brought up kids bilingually - but the most common model seemed to be that both parents had at least a basic capability in both languages, with one being a native speaker, and they would then either do OPOL (one-parent-one-language) or simply speak the foreign language in the home, and let the child pick up English on their own at school/nursery/playgroup or whatever. BUT we didn't really fit into either of those:

I'm not a native speaker of Spanish - I've had to pick up a lot along the way!
My wife doesn't speak any Spanish at all (though she does seem to be picking bits up; she can hardly help it, i guess!)

So it was always going to be the case that my daughter would hear me speaking English - would this confuse her? Would she bother with Spanish at all if she knew I could speak English anyway? Would all this be too much for her poor little brain to cope with?? Was I going to break my child???

A few things helped me make up my mind...