Monday, May 5, 2008

Dreaming in Spanish

Something very exciting has happened in our house in the last month: Jove is speaking Spanish!! Not just a word or two and not only when requested. He busts out with long, complex sentences, answers in Spanish when you address him in Spanish and asks what a word means if he doesn't know. I am thrilled. It seriously seems like a switch was flicked on and all of the exposure and experiences he has had his whole life have finally created true bilingualism for him.

Jup and I's approach to Jove's bilingualism has shifted and changed since he was born and I had been wondering how it would turn out (not that it is over now!) There different types of bilingualism (passive and active) and we definitely wanted active which means to initiate and contextualize the language and not just understand it when spoken to. I feel like maybe he just had to mature cognitively to sort out all of the language input he has received over the years.

Jove heard mostly Spanish his first year of life, from both of us and his caregiver. When he was going to have to be in an English-speaking daycare, I started to talk to him in English so he would know what was going on. Jupiter continued to use only Spanish with him. When he began talking, it was almost completely in English with only a few Spanish words, but he has always understood all of the Spanish that was spoken to him. Recently, I have been doing a lot of singing and reading in Spanish and using only Spanish in the house for the two days a week his abuela is here and Jup continues to speak only Spanish to him. He still has a much richer vocabulary and less errors in English, but I feel so happy that he is on his way.

This whole process has made me reflect on my own path towards bilingualism and I so wish that I could look back in time at myself speaking Spanish when I was younger. Needless to say, I know a lot more now and I am continuing to learn words almost every day by reading to Jove. There are so many words that aren't really taught in a foreign language class and never come up in everyday conversation, like beaver (castor), bricklayer (albanil), chichon (bump on your head), etc. See what I mean... How do you measure bilingualism anyway?? I can talk to anybody about almost anything in Spanish, but it would be difficult for me to write an insightful research paper in Spanish. Maybe I'm like a socially mature seventh grader in a Spanish-speaking country.

Jove and I are going to keep working on our Spanish over here.

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