What is it like for a three-year old to suddenly have their mother talk in Spanish to him?
Sometimes he doesn’t notice. He accepts sandía as the word for watermelon, especially since watermelon is a mouthful, and w’s are impossible for him. And after pointing and miming at the watermelon, saying sandía gets it into his mouth much faster. “Oh sandía?” We ask? He nods. He’s never heard the word before but he gets it.
Other times, he looks at me weird like I’m playing a trick on him. It’s usually when I say something longer, like “Que quieres comer?” and he has no idea and no context to translate. I let him off the hook. “What do you want to eat?”
Pizza! It’s the same in both languages.
I slip out of Spanish all the time. There’s so much I don’t know. Things I looked up today:
- Squish the play dough.
- Roller Skating.
- Slice (the onion).
- Dice it.
- Don’t bite your tongue.
There’s more I missed. Things I meant to look up but faded away before I could put down the baby or stop chasing my toddler. But I did read three articles on People Español — which entertains me to no end. I caught up on the North Korean conflict on the Mexico City newspaper El Universal. I told Cole that we Vamos a ir a la playa mañana.
That’s it. He has started asking for agua on his own. He says hola to people.
As I was putting him to bed, I called him loco, mono, mi amor, and cariño. At one point I must have gotten carried away with my Spanish because he covered my mouth. I switched back to English. He relaxed.
We have six months in Mexico and these baby steps are just the beginning, but it’s so fascinating to learn languages like this. To be honest, it scares the crap out of me, losing my easy ability to communicate with my son, stumbling over verb tenses and unknown vocabulary. I’m not pushing too hard, but still, there’s something so very different about immersion language learning as a family verses my experiences in 2008-2009, when it was just me, traveling alone in Guatemala, immersed but self-sufficient. No one depended on my ability to communicate for their well-being.
Yet, I’m slowly slipping in Spanish versions for his favorite movies. I’m unraveling his English life a little. I even discovered that if you go to youtube.com.mx it will let you only search for Spanish-language videos. It feels a little sneaky and I wonder if at some point he’s going to catch on. Wait a minute mama, you speak Spanish now!
Where will we be after six months of this? I can’t wait.