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!

27 comments:

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Canadiagaditana said...

The performance issue is terribly annoying. It feels like dumb dog tricks, "Say something in Spanish for me". rrrrrrr....

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nesomja said...

Hello, are you still around and are you still speaking Spanish to your daughter? if so I'd love to hear from you, I am doing something similar with my son. I am also particularly interested in how to find Spanish soundtrack DVDs.

nesomja said...

Hello, are you still around and are you still speaking Spanish to your daughter? if so I'd love to hear from you, I am doing something similar with my son. I am also particularly interested in how to find Spanish soundtrack DVDs.

Anonymous said...

hi nesomja, we're still here but the blog is now largely suspended; every now and again i consider making an update post but we're really just too busy (i'm not even sure if i remember the login details)! i still speak spanish with my daughter, though i won't put pressure on her and she largely speaks english to me. apparently this is called translanguaging and is not uncommon. at most i suggest that if she wants to speak spanish well, she needs to practise - and sometimes she does. her comprehension is good and her english is perfect. she has also shown considerable interest in learning other languages, which is no bad thing. loads of dvds have spanish soundtracks - check their details on amazon. best wishes.

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