Monday, 24 November 2008

And I can say it in English!

Sometimes I wonder, especially when picking Laniña up from the nursery, do other people think I´m mad. There I am, speaking foreign to a child who is resolutely answering only in English! What on earth, they must think, am I doing?

But then, like today for instance, as soon as we get into the car she´ll say, "Look Estrellas!"

Today she went on to add, "An I can say it in English - it´s STARS!"

So that became a wee game: I would say montaña and she would say "Mountain!" (or whatever)

It only lasted for a few minutes, but left both of us feeling very pleased with ourselves!

Laniña will be 4 soon; she´s not a "balanced" bi-lingual: I don´t think she has a productive ability at the same level in both languages. But, and most importantly, I´m content that her English is fine. She´s not doing too bad. Not too bad at all!

Friday, 21 November 2008


Laniña´s pronunciation has become pretty good. Clear and distinct, where a year ago she might have mumbled or otherwise failed to pronounce certain sounds or words correctly. This is in both English and Spanish, I mean.

But now she seems to have most sounds pretty well mastered in both languages - and she´ll not be 4 until December! Some more tricky words still cause difficulties, of course, but she´s doing OK.

One thing is still causing a noticeable difficulty, though: She still can´t to the "rr" tongue-trill which is so important and distinctive in Spanish. I´m not too bothered at the minute since I have read that this can cause even young native Spaniards trouble and some are 5 or 6 years old before they master it!

I have recently received one good piece of advice - thanks (you know who you are!). And it is to practice it my imitating the sound of a car: brrm brrm!!

I started this the other day and Laniña enjoyed it very much!!

(She still can´t do it though!!)

Monday, 3 November 2008


If you´ve got kids, you´re very likely already aware that has some simple online games featuring their key characters like Dora, Diego and the Backyardigans. Over the last few weeks, Laniña has grown to like these very much - possibly too much!

I had been frustrated in not being able to find a Spanish version of any of these games, and in a sudden flash of inspiration I gave up on Nickjr and decided to look for other online games for kids. I did a google on "online games spanish ninos" and after a few clicks got to this:

It´s great! Simple stories in Spanish, with simple online activities as well as follow up craft ideas for doing at home. I love it!

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

El alfabeto

This was a tricky one - I really didn't know how we would sort this out at all, and in fact I guess we're still in the middle of it, and may well be for a while yet!

Laniña had been becoming increasingly interested in letters - without any pressure from us, I may add - and has been able to sort of write her name for a good few weeks now. And then there was the alphabet song which she must have picked up from her day nursery: for a while she was singing A B C D S I O with great confidence (very cute) but she seems to have the right version now.

So we got out the big alphabet poster and put it on her door and she likes to find the letter we say - but this is where the trouble arises: not only are the names of the letters different in Spanish, some of them sound like the names of other letters! E and I and A are particularly confusing.

So, what to do? Well, I didn´t really know so out of pure inertia I simply ignored the problem and on only a couple of occasions so far has Laniña made a mistake based on taking the letter from the other language and I´ve just said something like "yes that´s E in English, but in Spanish it´s I" and Laniña just sort of shrugs and gets on with it. So, not so much of a problem after all!

If only all problems went away just by ignoring them!

Monday, 29 September 2008

Mummy's silly!

Well sometimes Laniña uses her Spanish in very particular ways. Being a very bad father, I have taught her how to use computer games, which she quite enjoys. She only does this with me. Now the Spanish word juego is for any type of game, but Laniña now uses juego like this: "I wanna do a juego" meaning that she wants to play a computer game. I think there´s a word in linguistics for this; when a word with a broad meaning is adapted to mean something specific.

Anyway, that´s not very funny in itself. What´s funny is that the word juego has now sort of entered our family dialect to mean computer game, even if speaking English. BUT - Spanish Js are kinda hard to say. So when Laniña´s mother said, "You can have a (j)uego after your dinner," Laniña´s response was:

"Ha ha ha, Mummy´s silly! ´S not uego - it´s Juego!!"

Oh dear, pronunciation corrected by three-and-a-half year old... Still, glad she noticed the difference, though!

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Holidays in Spain!

So, finally we got to head back to Spain for a week - Laniña was also there with us for a week about the same time last year, but she didn´t really have any memories of it at all.

Laniña and I had talked about it a good bit beforehand, including pointing out that everyone there would speak Spanish and that she would have to speak Spanish to them too. And when we got there, the amazing thing was that she really seemed to take this on board a bit. Of course she didn´t believe me at first (she never does; probably quite sensible, really!) but we quickly noticed that as soon as she heard other kids interacting in Spanish, she started copying them right away and it was a joy to listen to! She hadn´t spoken to me much in Spanish for nearly a year (she used to mix English and Spanish freely) and I hadn´t been pressuring her to, so this was great. She also started joining in with some of the Spanish songs that I sing to her. Lovely.

One small problem, however, was that, having accepted that other people speak Spanish (she used to think it was only me!), she still thinks that everyone can speak English. Towards the end of the week it was starting to dawn that she would have to speak Spanish for some people to understand her, but I´m not sure it has fully clicked yet!

A further decision that I have reached is that, as a result of seeing that, obviously, her Spanish isn´t as developed as her English through lack of practice, I am going to encourage her more explicitly with "What´s that in Spanish?"-type questions. So far, she has responded really well to this and sometimes has spontaneously announced something in Spanish, and followed up with: "See, I´m speaking Spanish!"

Good girl!

Tuesday, 15 July 2008


Well, it's the holidays and that means that Laniña gets to see - and hear - a lot more of me. I´ve been off work for about two weeks now and have noticed two fascinating, yet probably quite obvious things:

First week off and I was away on my own, minus partner and sproglet. When I returned I noticed that Laniña´s ENGLISH had improved tremendously. Interesting. Her English is within normal parameters of development, yet my partner and I both feel that Laniña is slightly behind some of her contemporaries. This may or may not have been caused by my speaking Spanish to her, and now it seems that that is indeed the case, since without Spanish her English leaps ahead. This is perhaps kinda worrying, yet also reassuring since it also suggests that her English can catch up pretty easily should I ever decide to stop with the Spanish (and at this stage, I don´t think she´ll let me - nor do I feel inclined to!).

This week, however, I´ve been hanging out with Laniña loads. And guess what? That´s right! Her Spanish has improved tremendously! What a surprise. She has started replying to me in Spanish again, where she had started basically mostly talking to me in English, and has been attempting longer sentences. So, the stunning conclusion of all this is that the more input in a language my child gets, and the more opportunities to speak, the better she gets at it! Hardly a world-shaking revelation, I´m sure you´ll agree, but nevertheless I find it both reassuring and encouraging!

Monday, 14 July 2008

A Parents' and Teachers' Guide to Bilingualism

So, I sometimes get uncomfortable about the fact that we're really just making a lot of our bilingual-metholodogy (so to speak) up as we go along. There are several good sources of advice, including multilingual munchkins (which is a yahoo email newsgroup or something) and a couple of friends who are doing similar things. But at the same time, all kids are different, and all our situations are different, so it's difficult to make direct comparisons.

Therefore it's nice to find a book which pretty much answers, at length and with considerable academic clout, most of the questions which a person might have about issues surrounding bilingualism. I recommend it highly. Colin Baker himself is not only an academic studying issues around bilingualism, but has a bilingual family of his own in North Wales, so you can sense both points of view, academic and personal, throughout the book.

The only thing is that there isn't much about folks in my situation who are bringing up a child through a non-native second language, but nevertheless it was well worth the cover price!

Saturday, 31 May 2008

uh oh...

Discussing what bowl to have breakfast in:

Laniña: Yeh, a verde bowl. An in Spanish is GREEN!!

ummm... nope, sorry - other way round! Shame, she seemed so pleased with herself...

Friday, 23 May 2008

Hide and Speak!

Hide and speak Spanish (humph, can't believe they've no picture!)

So, Laniña generally gets me to read something in Spanish these evenings as a bedtime story (that said, I did have to read Peppa Pig in English last night - she's only three; she's allowed to be fickle! And I'm not prepared to pretend that I can't speak English when I clearly can!)

But there's one book in particular that she often asks for, and she just calls it "Español" This book is Hide and Speak Spanish. It has a nice illustration and simple sentences on the left; on the right are boxes with specific pictures of individual items from the large picture, alongside other boxes with the names of those items. There are also two flaps so you can cover up either the words or the pics. We don´t do that, though.

I just read the sentences and point at the big picture. Then we go down the list of items on the left and I say the words. Laniña repeats what I say. She really seems to enjoy it. What is interesting is that when I say "El mar" she repeats "mar". If the word is "La calle", she repeats "calle". "La cama" becomes "cama". You get the idea. She leaves out the definite article, the the-word, if you know what I mean.

What is cool about this, is that it means she has sort of figured out that el and la are separate words, and can therefore be left off, sometimes. I mean, when I say "La cama" it actually sounds like one word - lacama. Therefore, she should repeat the whole sound - but she has somehow spotted the pattern of els and las and knows that there´s comething special about them.

Another interesting thing happened the other night, but I´m going to keep you in suspense for now...

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Peterson and the missing blog post...

First, the missing blog post: during one of those periods when I haven't been posting very much, I experimented a bit with making this blog a podcast and recorded a couple of very interesting (if I do say so myself) pieces before running into a couple of difficulties. I've now sort of figured out how to resolve these, but only by moving the whole thing away from blogger or by paying for a service to host all the media files. Anyway, I haven't got round to either yet and instead had intended to simply type up what I had recorded.

Ho hum... still waiting...

Well, I'm gonna summarise one for you now. Hooray! Because it now has a new development. Great.

Basically, it was about how, just before Christmas, Laniña finally met a real Spanish-speaker. I mean she had met real Spaniards before, but hadn´t really been old enough to register it. So he naturally spoke to her in Spanish, having heard me talking in Spanish. Well, Laniña like TOTALLY freaked out. Somewhere between outrage and terror. I mean she has been exposed to plenty of Spanish on DVDs and the like, so one might have assumed she´d be pretty cool with the idea that other people apart from her and her dad speak Spanish, but no - the real thing was too much for her!

Didn´t really bode well for the future, eh? But we struggled on anyway.

And then Peterson came to visit yesterday. Peterson Toscano. You can google him, he´s lovely. The important thing about him from our point of view here, though, is that Peterson speaks very good Spanish. And Laniña hasn´t minded at all. In fact, she seems to have really rather enjoyed it. In fact she said, "I love Peterson!"

So, she now has come more to terms with the idea of Spanish being a real external language and is now happy with the idea that it´s something other people do too, not just something special between her and her dad.

Cool. It´s nice to feel we´re making progress!

Saturday, 17 May 2008


OK, hands up if you remember Dogtanian?? If you've been paying close attention, you'll notice that my video bar (above) has changed recently, and now features highlights from that masterpiece of animation from my childhood! In Spanish!! Did you know that it was made in Spain? That's why the English lip-synching was so dodgy - the cartoons are really speaking Spanish!!

The original name of the show was Dartacan y los tres Mosqueperros. Dartacan is a word-play which works in much the same way as Dogtanian. So, I downloaded the whole series (in Spanish, of course), looking forward to re-living part of my childhood with my daughter... but she doesn't really care for it I'm afraid.

Ho hum, I guess they all have their own personalities after all. Or maybe she's just a bit young yet. Yes, I'll try again when she's older!

This is the link to the DVD, but as far as I can tell it's only in English, which is why I downloaded it (shhh... don't tell anyone!):

Monday, 12 May 2008

Pretty car!

No, she didn't say that Not really.

Laniña was in the supermarket car park with her mother a couple of days ago and they saw a car which was a truly horrific shade of orange.

"Look at that car!" said mother, "What colour is that?"
"s orange" said Laniña. Clever girl.
"And what colour is our car?"
"Silver. An in Spanish is plata"

Well, goodness me. It is, too! Clever girl, indeed! I did say she was becoming more aware of there being more than one language, didn't I?!

Totally cheered me up, it did.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Go Diego Go!

Diego is Dora's cousin - both are young bilingual adventurers from the Nick Jr. channel. Diego is aimed at an older (and more male) audience than Dora, but the activities are just as interactive and there is a current of Spanish running throughout - Laniña loves all the stuff about animals, too! (Diego is an Animal Rescuer, and all the episodes have an animal theme)

It is also possible to import the dvds from America and on those ones have an alternative Spanish soundtrack, but with activities to learn English! I found the latin-american Spanish quite grating to be honest - I usually like it, but the command forms were all very formal even though it´s a kids show - but Laniña loved it!

I like comiendo Krispies!

Laniña has funny wee moods. She loves Go Diego Go! and we watch it a lot on dvd - in English, because those dvd´s don´t have Spanish on them. But sometimes she changes the language herself and I have often caught her really enjoying listening to French or Danish. Even when there is a Spanish soundtrack on a dvd, she still changes it to e.g. Catalán or, I dunno, Hebrew or something. I have decided not to worry about this; she has shown increasing awareness of Spanish and English actually being two different languages that other people speak and I think she enjoys experimenting with listening to other languages too - it´s good to learn early that we live in a very multilingual world! She has also been experimenting with making up her own language and talking blah-pluh nonsense in roleplaying with her toys, and sometimes with us, too. She thinks it´s funny, but really I think she was experimenting to see if made-up words might somehow mean something. It´s good that she´s experimenting with concepts of language.

We got her a doll´s house last weekend - she didn´t really know what to do with it, so I acted out wee stories to Spanish commentary as I moved the figures from room to room. She would watch me and then role play what she´d seen - great fun!

She still mixes languages a good bit in talking to me, but hardly ever mixes Spanish with English in talking to her mother. Sometimes she has a long hesitation before she can think of a word and I have to supply it for her:

¿Dónde hiciste el pic-nic? (Where did you have the pic-nic?)
Inna... Inna... um...
¿En el salón o en el jardín? (In the living room or in the garden?)
In a jardín!!

Thursday, 20 March 2008

¡Qué descarada!

So, I've been asking "¿Inglés o Español?" before each bedtime story recently, and tonight Laniña wasn´t paying attention because she wanted to play tent with the blanket and so I just went on ahead in Spanish. Suddenly she poked her head out and asked "¿Inglés o Español?", so I asked her that same question. She had a wee think, smiled, and then answered "¡Inglés!"

Cheeky thing!

That said, I´m on hols at the minute, and she´s had a couple days off nursery and it is immediately noticeable that she is just automatically speaking more Spanish. This has come so effortlessly that it really reassures me that she will just automatically adjust her balance of language to suit her environment - I wonder what will happen when we go to Spain for a week?

Monday, 3 March 2008

Where's me?

Well, sorry it's been a while - I've been busy.

Thanks to the folks at Multilingualmunchkins for the encouragement.

Anyway, I did do a couple more blog entries in January, but i thought I would be clever and record them as audio podcasts, but I've run into problems with getting somewhere to host the files - I think I've got it sorted now, so you can expect to see (hear!) them here soon.

Laniña´s speech and language is improving every day - mostly in English! She´s got to the point of making cute grammatical mistakes, and when she hides she now has in fact left "Where´s me?" behind and has started to ask "Where´s my me?" instead!!

Her Spanish mistakes aren´t as cute, I´m afraid: wrong verb endings and she does still insist on calling me yo instead of (because I call myself yo of course!)

She speaks much less Spanish, but still uses certain words like biblioteca especially if it´s something that she does principally with me. When she clearly knows a word in both languages there is a definite delay as she chooses which one to use, and seems to look for reassurance afterwards. She is much more confident in English. This is only to be expected.

Periodically, though, she asks to see Español , which is the DVD of the Usbourne first Spanish book. And in the last week, I myself found one of her counting books so boring that I asked if she wanted it in Spanish - she enthusiastically did indeed want to hear it in Spanish! Now I have been asking if she wants her bedtime story-books ¿en inglés o en español? and she has responded Español every single time. Very encouraging. I don´t really translate the story, though - we just chat about the pictures on the page.

Up until now, while I have obviously been reading her Spanish books in Spanish, I´ve been reading her English books in English - I mean sometimes she really wants Green Eggs And Ham (good luck with trying to translate that one!). My concern is that I feel she will start to pay attention to the words soon and I really don´t want to mess up her reading! I´ll let you know how it goes...