Tag Archive: Bilingualism

The Gift

Driving kids to school is part of my daily routine.  Depending on who is in the car– my sullen, half-asleep teens, or my energetic, talkative 1st grader– my drive can be heavy with silence or chaotic with chatter. This morning I was driving both my sons, 13 year-old Nico and 7 year-old Diego.

As we got on the freeway Diego began shouting from the back-seat:

“Exit 12A.”

“Call box.”

“No right turn.”

“Pasadena.Del Mar. Cali-for-nia Boulevard!”

I looked over at Nico sitting next to me in the front seat. He rolled his eyes, groaned and put his head into his hands as his brother continued to shout out street signs.

I laughed both at Nico’s reaction and Diego’s delight in annoying his older brother.

Feeling encouraged, Diego continued to read aloud:

“San Fernando.”

“Orange Grove.”

Then, Diego proclaimed, “I have it! I have the GIFT!”

I thought about where we were almost one year ago exactly. We were struggling with Diego to get him to read. He was struggling with de-coding words in English and Spanish. We had already met with his teacher, principal and a reading specialist (the Student Success Team) and were told that Diego needed reading support. As the remainder of the school year progressed, it became clear to us that Diego needed more time to develop as a reader, and would probably benefit by repeating first grade.  Juan and I were concerned and upset, but ultimately we decided to retain him. What a difference a year has made. Diego took a few weeks to get over the disappointment of not moving to 2nd grade with his buddies, but now he has friends in both grades. He has gained confidence in his reading and he even asks to read at night. He is working his way through his first chapter book.

As I listened to him continue to read aloud all the street signs on our way to school I smiled. I was cheered by Diego’s constant chatter from the backseat. Nico was annoyed.  I thought to myself, “Yes, Diego, you have the gift.”

 

Wordless Wednesday (Spanish Version)

Placemat by Diego. Translation: I am thankful for my mother and father, to see my brother, my family which has my sisters and brother, the rainbow, my hands, my friends, God.

 

 

 

The "J" of Spanish

Only two more days before Diego returns to school at his Spanish immersion program. During the winter break we’ve kept busy with holiday festivities, and we’ve had fun playing card games, board games and video games. We’ve also continued to practice his Spanish vocabulary whenever we can.

Diego’s Spanish has improved so much since he started the immersion program last year in kindergarten. He is so proud of himself and continues to remind us how, during a Spanish vocabulary drill on a family car ride,  he came up with the word for “pillows” before his 15 year-old sister, Olivia. Olivia,  who is in a high school Spanish II honors class, does not like to be reminded of that moment she was stumped by her 6 year-old brother.

This morning Diego tried to stump me with his own Spanish challenge.

D: “Mommy, what is the word for pencil?”

Me: Lápiz.

D: “Mommy, what is the word for paper?”

Me: Papel.

D: “How do you say “desk?’

Me: “Escritorio.”

D: “Noooo…It’s PUPITRE!!”

Me: “WHAT? Well, there are two ways to say “desk” in Spanish!”

An argument ensued, where I tried to redeem my Spanish fluency  in front of my little linguist. I lost. Diego offered some words of sympathy and encouragement.

“That’s okay Mommy. You can be the “J” of Spanish.”

What is the “J” of Spanish? I thought of all the Spanish vocabulary words which begin with “J” and could possibly mean, “Beginner,” “Novice,” “Loser.” Diego reminded me that we had been playing War with a deck of cards the other day, and he explained:

Daddy is the King. I am his Bodyguard and you are “J.”

“J?” I am only the Jack? Doesn’t a King need a Queen?

Diego tried to offer me more encouragement, “When you learn more Spanish you can be the Queen.”

Hmmp! I only hope that my Spanish will improve and I will be made Queen.  In the meantime, I may just stick to challenging Diego to games of War instead of Spanish vocab challenges.

The “J” of Spanish

Only two more days before Diego returns to school at his Spanish immersion program. During the winter break we’ve kept busy with holiday festivities, and we’ve had fun playing card games, board games and video games. We’ve also continued to practice his Spanish vocabulary whenever we can.

Diego’s Spanish has improved so much since he started the immersion program last year in kindergarten. He is so proud of himself and continues to remind us how, during a Spanish vocabulary drill on a family car ride,  he came up with the word for “pillows” before his 15 year-old sister, Olivia. Olivia,  who is in a high school Spanish II honors class, does not like to be reminded of that moment she was stumped by her 6 year-old brother.

This morning Diego tried to stump me with his own Spanish challenge.

D: “Mommy, what is the word for pencil?”

Me: Lápiz.

D: “Mommy, what is the word for paper?”

Me: Papel.

D: “How do you say “desk?’

Me: “Escritorio.”

D: “Noooo…It’s PUPITRE!!”

Me: “WHAT? Well, there are two ways to say “desk” in Spanish!”

An argument ensued, where I tried to redeem my Spanish fluency  in front of my little linguist. I lost. Diego offered some words of sympathy and encouragement.

“That’s okay Mommy. You can be the “J” of Spanish.”

What is the “J” of Spanish? I thought of all the Spanish vocabulary words which begin with “J” and could possibly mean, “Beginner,” “Novice,” “Loser.” Diego reminded me that we had been playing War with a deck of cards the other day, and he explained:

Daddy is the King. I am his Bodyguard and you are “J.”

“J?” I am only the Jack? Doesn’t a King need a Queen?

Diego tried to offer me more encouragement, “When you learn more Spanish you can be the Queen.”

Hmmp! I only hope that my Spanish will improve and I will be made Queen.  In the meantime, I may just stick to challenging Diego to games of War instead of Spanish vocab challenges.

Spelling Test and a History Lesson

I mentioned before that Diego is in first grade in a Spanish dual immersion program.  There are several different models for dual language immersion education, but in Diego’s school  the students begin in kindergarten with 90%  of the  curriculum taught in Spanish and 10% in English. The ideal student composition is 50% Spanish dominant speakers, and 50% English dominant speakers.  Every year the ratio of  instruction in Spanish to English is reduced. This year Diego is receiving 80% instruction in Spanish and 20% in English.  By 5th grade, with a 50/50 ratio,  the  students should be fully bilingual and biliterate.  

This is the goal, and that is my hope for Diego.  Over the years I have struggled to become bilingual, to no avail. At best, I am conversant.  On the other hand, my husband Juan’s first language was Spanish.  He learned a lot of English watching Sesame Street.  As Diego becomes more fluent, he and Juan have begun speaking more Spanish around the house.  I try to speak Spanish to Diego too, but my accent is terrible.  Juan sometimes will make fun of my Spanish, saying I speak like a spaniard, with a Castillian lisp.  Hmmm.

This morning, I was drilling Diego on his spelling words, in preparation for his weekly spelling test.  I did this by saying the Spanish spelling word, using  it in a Spanish sentence and Diego then would spell it out loud, using the Spanish alphabet.  I took care to speak each word distinctly so he would hear all the syllables of each word.  Sounding the words out this way should have given him a good spelling hint, since Spanish words sound like they are written, unlike the English language, with its words that sound nothing  like they are spelled.  Words like right, neighbor, enough or receive. 

So, as I drilled Diego for his spelling test, I asked him to spell the word sed. It means thirst. He spelled it correctly aloud in Spanish.  Then I got to the word, hacer. It means do or make.  Diego spelled hacer, h-a-s-e-d.  I told him it was wrong and repeated HACER.  I was very careful to speak distinctly, trying to roll my r’s.  Hacerrrrr. Diego started laughing. Then he told me I was saying the word incorrectly. He began mocking me, speaking like a Spaniard with a Castilian lisp, saying hased, hased, making great fun of his mami!  Hmm.

Later, I told Juan about this and he started cracking up. He told me it reminded him of his own childhood, trying to spell in English.  He recalled when he was 6 years-old and was thrown into english-speaking kindergarten even though Spanish was his dominant language.  He remembered his Spanish-speaking mother quizzing him on spelling words, speaking the words aloud in heavily accented English. Juan remembers becoming  so frustrated trying to decipher the English spelling word that he told his mother, “Shakespeare couldn’t teach you English!” Ouch.

Thankfully, Juan has become fully literate in English, however he still relies heavily on spellcheck.  Nevertheless, from now on, Juan will be doing all the spelling drills for Diego, in Spanish.

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