Thursday, March 13, 2014

Day -19: Español

Without a doubt one of the things I will miss the most about Nicaragua is the opportunity to speak Spanish every day. I've found learning a new language as an adult to be a perpetual motion process. You have to keep learning and practicing and moving forward or you start to slide backwards. I'm pretty proud about how far I've come learning Spanish. No one would ever mistake me for anything other than a gringo, but I do OK.

But even after short trips to the states I start to feel rusty, so I'm worried that I'll go back to the U.S. and it will all melt away. Now of course we're moving to California and there are tons of Spanish-speakers who live there, so I'm sure I'll have plenty of opportunity to practice. But the great advantage of being immersed is that you have to use your Spanish every day all the time. I'm not sure that'll be the same in California, but we'll see.

With the girls it is a different story. Maya is two and a half years old now, and she's just now starting to talk more confidently in both English and Spanish. Like almost all kids raised in a bilingual environment, her language development has been slower. (Bilingual kids universally start slower but catch up to their age-mates over time.) Some of her first words were an adorable mix of both languages like gat (halfway between gato and cat) or lun (luna and moon). Even now there are certain things that she'll only say in one language or the other, and she's definitely starting to separate the two more consistently. It has been fascinating to see how different her process has been from her sister. Since she's Nicaraguan by birth we feel a responsibility to help her maintain both languages, but she's so young that it might be pretty difficult.

After four years of Nicaraguan school, Quinn is perfectly bilingual, and she's old enough that it seems more likely she'll be able to keep up her Spanish even in the states. We are hoping to enroll her in a bilingual public school in California when we get there. I never cease to be amazed by her ability to switch effortlessly between the two languages. She still has some "spanish-isms" that creep into her English, by which I mean she says something in English that has the structure or vocab of a common Spanish phrase. One time when the power went out she informed us that "The lights went" (spanish: Se fue la luz). Or she will refer to "touching the guitar" instead of playing it, since Spanish uses that verb instead.

At times when I overhear her talking with her friends her Spanish accelerates to such a velocity that I can barely understand her. I used to worry that I should be able to always understand what my kid is saying, but now I think it might be a metaphor for parenting. Maybe at some level kids always speak a slightly different tongue than their parents.

No comments:

Post a Comment