Friday, 22 May 2009

I thought she was fluent...?

People sometimes aren´t sure what to expect from a 4-year-old bilingual, and sometimes think that they can get Laniña to "perform" her Spanish for them - with very mixed results. One friend recently exclaimed, "Oh, I thought she was fluent!" which at least gave us a chance to talk about it; I can only assume that many others are thinking inwardly how mad I must be to keep talking Spanish to a child who doesn´t seem to speak it!!

Thing is, as far as I can tell, she does speak it; she merely in many contexts chooses not to. Indeed, as a 4-year-old, I suspect that in many cases she´s only beginning to make any sort of conscious choice at all. She is aware now, and indeed proud (at the moment) that she has two languages, but in most instances her speech is fairly automatic and, in common with most young children she uses whole phrases and words which she nearly understands, often with comic effect!

So when someone suddenly demands that she speak in Spanish, I can almost see the wheels whirring in her mind: "D'uh, that´s stupid, you don´t speak Spanish!" Obviously she doesn´t really say or think that, it´s just what´s in my mind. What I think I mean is that Spanish for her is not really a performance thing, not like dancing or singing which one obviously does for an audience "Watch me, watch me!"

So when someone says "Speak some Spanish!" the natural reaction is simply, "Huh?"

Quite right, too! If our wider society could get out of its monolingual English-only mindset and the sheer amazement that some people actually do manage to speak other languages every day, the whole thing would seem a lot more normal!

Friday, 15 May 2009

Colorín colorado

Oh dear...

At the end of reading a Spanish fairy tale, one commonly says this:

Colorín colorado
Este cuento se ha acabado

It's just the ritual end, like we always say "...and they all lived happily ever after."
Colorín colorado, however, doesn't really mean anything sensible, and este cuento se ha acabado simply means "this story has finished".

This evening, though, my brain wasn't working too well and I finished with "este cuento ... um, ha terminado" It's another way to say it has finished.

Laniña looked at me with wide eyes, laughed and said "Noooooo!! ¡Se ha acabado!"

Great. Corrected by a four-year old! Well, she has heard the phrase about 600 times, so it's nice to know that at least it has sunk in!

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Online Resources for Multilingual Families

I got a list of these on a leaflet; thanks SG!

I haven't even managed to look at some of these yet, but I do know the multilingualmunchkins list is great; enjoy exploring them!

More about Laniña soon!

Thursday, 9 April 2009


So, I was out of the country for a week and usually when I'm out of the picture for a while Laniña uses markedly less Spanish. This time, however, things were markedly different:

Laniña and her mother were in the playpark and chanced to meet another young chap from Laniña's nursery class. They have had an ongoing competitive game going for a while of the "My x is better than yours" sort of thing. So they ran around a bit and then Laniña wanted her friend to come over, so of course she shouted, "Come over here!" and then, out of nowhere, she declared, "and I can speak Spanish: ¡Ven! ¡Ven!" Which is, of course, completely correct.

There was also the incident where she made her mother pretend to be me and mother had to say "Hola, ¿qué tal?"

Her pronunciation of Spanish is notably improving. While she still doesn't use or be exposed to at all as much Spanish as I would like, at four-and-a-half years old she at least does seem to be aware of herself as a bilingual person. And that's good.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Politics at Breakfast

Strange conversation at breakfast, don't know what sparked the original question:

- Where Bak Omama live?
- ¿Cómo? Oh, Barak Obama?
- Yup.
- En América. En la Casa Blanca
- Yup and in English is the White House!

So, we googled it and showed her a picture of the White House and she said "That's like holidays"
If only our hotel was ever that nice!

Monday, 23 February 2009

School and fairy tales...

Well, 4th birthday came and went and with it came SCHOOL! Well, sort-of school. It's called a reception class and is in a school, but they really just play and it's only for a couple of hours each day. But, goodness, Laniña´s English has rocketed! Chat chat chat...

Well, for over a month I swear she didn´t speak a single word of Spanish. I told myself to stay cool... Time passed. Then I booked our summer flights to Spain (just a 5-day trip!) and we were talking about it and how all the kids there will only speak Spanish. And suddenly it started to come back... just a word here and there. Then spontaneously alone with me one morning she shouted "¡Mira esto!" (look at this) as she showed me her hopping. It was only thinking about it later that I was able to link the renewed interest in and use of Spanish with the mention of a return to Spain.

She has also begun to ask for a Spanish bedtime story again sometimes. At the moment I think she uses it as a strategy to get an extra story before bed because she knows I won´t refuse a Spanish request!! At the moment she is convinced that the leñador (woodcutter) who rescues Red Riding Hood (Caperucita Roja) is the father of Hansel and Gretel. The pictures aren´t particularly similar, but she spotted that it´s the same word and is very excited about it!!