Monday, February 08, 2010

Hola, amigos: a language travesty

There are many ways in which I've surprised myself as a parent. Some of them good. And when I look back at the mental list of things I hoped for Isaac by this point, I'm mostly satisfied, save one major thing. Language.

My boy is very adept at his native tongue, incorporates phrases and new vocabulary with amazing ease. At four he commonly says things like "Okay, mommy, I'll give you an example, let's say a lion is chasing a giraffe..." or "What in the world was I thinking?!" or "How can that even be possible??" But I want to raise a bilingual child. This I have not yet accomplished. The baby songs on CD in Russian, Spanish, Italian, and Japanese lie quietly in one corner of his room. Other audio with accompanying books in Italian and Russian - well, I can't actually tell you where they are right at this moment...

Apparently, I'm not alone in struggling with incorporating multiple tongues into the script of the day. The following entry from June 29, 2008 came after a visit to his paternal grandparents where he consumed more cartoons in a few days than he had to date in his life as a whole. Here's what I wrote:

Dora is just the beginning. There are shows now that appear to be all the rage in which a Latino/a protagonist begins the half hour by greeting viewers with "Hola!" Then, at some point in the program, normally when the confusing mix up or funny coincidence of the day has reached its climax, the same character might say something to the effect of "Ay, caramba!" And, if you're really lucky, you get an "Adios, amigos!" to close out your time in this land of uninspiring make believe. Frankly, people, I've heard more Spanish in a taco commercial.

The other day, Isaac woke up from his nap to report a dream in which he and Dora were on a hike together. He asked me how to say plate and cup in Spanish -- linguistic places Dora could never dare take him.


Barbara said...

In Dora's defense, Ella's learned quite a few Spanish words and phrases from watching Dora! (But then she probably watches more of it than Isaac does.... :-( In fact my efforts to teach her French words are rebuffed with the word-in-question in Spanish, or a request for it if she doesn't know it....proving that kids do the opposite of what you want.

Anonymous said...

I personally think you should just move here. If Isaac goes to a German school (just thinking out loud here), he would learn to speak German in about a minute, or maybe 10.
When I take the small people to IKEA in the Netherlands, they like to go to the playroom there, but usually end up watching TV. I asked them why, and they said that the kids there speak a different language and it's hard to play with them. So now we're practicing Dutch; since I go to IKEA twice or three times a year they probably won't get a big chance to use it but we do live so close and the simple fact that they are aware of the differences is interesting.
My two cents. xoxo sarah

bobbie said...

One day he will just decide to do it.

I love the series on you sidebar which cannot, indeed, contain the three of you.

Kitty said...

Sarah, funny you should mention IKEA...Barb - commenter above you- turned me onto a funny that will show up in a post very soon. And will I move to Germany...sorry, love. It's big world. Aachen has not yet made the top 10 - though that cheese market rocks! (as do you).

Christine Gram said...

I know this is hard. I've got an Italian husband and he still didn't speak Italian with the kids until we moved here. So it takes discipline (which apparently said husband does not have)...

That said, a cool idea that one of my kids english teachers here did was to have just a handful of kids sit with her during lunch. Then they ate lunch in English. You could do spanish lunch every day.

Or get him a childcare provider that only speaks some other language. Seriously... not one word of English. He'll pick it up in a jiffy.

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