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Hi all,

As I started, I am the problem, not my kids…

We live in Australia, my husband is a native speaker and I am Spanish. We have two little kids, 30 and 10 months old.

Since I was pregnant with our fist I decided I wanted them to speak both Spanish and English, but to my surprise when I first saw him I declared: ‘Aww you are so beautiful!!!’ I couldn’t believe it but the words came in English. I have had several tries at speaking to him in Spanish, but it doesn’t feel normal, as if in my head, the natural thing to do was to talk to him in English…

I guess I don’t have any interaction here with Spanish speaking people, and I speak to my family maybe twice a month. I even find it difficult now sometimes to speak to them.

My English is not perfect, but I do think in English now, most of the time…It is really weird and I am embarrassed because my family and Spanish friends don’t understand what I am doing and why. Me neither to be honest, it just feels really difficult to stick to Spanish beyond the odd song or little sentence.

My husband does not speak Spanish so he would not understand if I talked to them and I am the primary caret of the boys too as I stay at home with them.

I think I am depriving them of a wonderful opportunity for their lives.

Any advice would be much appreciated. And I would also love to hear from someone experiencing something similar to this.

Thanks in advance.

1. country: Australia

2. Languages: English , Spanish

3. Ages: 2.5yo and 10mo.

4. System: OPOL (failing)


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Hi Mireya,

Firstly, i don’t think you should feel guilty at all, you are only doing what came naturally for you from the moment your son was born!  

Amongst all my reading I don’t think i have ever read an article where the parents have eluded to the fact that raising bilingual children was easy, so don’t feel like you are doing something wrong, or, that because it feels hard it mustn’t be right for your family.  It can be a very tough road, but one thing that does seem to come out of it all is that it is worth it.

For our family, I am the native English speaker, my husband is Italian (with very poor Italian mind you) but with a big family that live locally who all speak Italian.  I have been learning Italian (My Italian would be no where near as good as your English) however we have decided that i am to speak to our baby (due in september) in Italian only, whilst my husband speaks in English.  

I too am worried that maybe it wouldn’t feel right, or would i be able to get the emotion across to our baby in a foreign language…. LOTS of questions i have, however the one thing keeping me going is the gift i know i will be giving our baby.  As an adult now, I am extremely envious of people (like you) that speak more than one language and did not have the opportunity as a child to learn a second language.  

My biggest advice would be to start small maybe.  Have half a day 3 mornings a week of just Spanish.  Watch sesame street in Spanish, buy some books etc.  This slow integration could be just as beneficial for you as for the kids.  It may start feeling more normal.  The other option (which may not be something your are interested in) but is to have a nanny or babysitter that speaks spanish.  There is a great website (i think based in Melbourne) that offer babysitters/nannies who can speak a nominated language of the child.  This may help it feel more natural for you if you can see someone else speaking your native language to your children.  I have enrolled our baby in an Italian preschool that has classes for babies as young as 4 months, which will be great for our child, but even more so for me in the early stages.  There will be other mums there speaking Italian, and its a great social activity.  May help me feel less isolated.  I know there are many bilingual story times in Melbourne  (I’m not sure where you are from in Australia) that would definitly do Spanish.  It’s about making it fun for your kids AND for you!

If your interested, i have started a blog that is all about our family and our bilingual journey.  The tips, the highs the lows, what works what doesn’t…. I am hoping it also links me up to other families in the area who are on the same journey as us.  Support is probably the biggest thing!

Good luck on your journey, and whatever you end up deciding, will be right for your family!
Jen xx

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 #3 is my blog 😉

And the nanny/babysitter link incase you’re interested:

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Hi Jenna

Thanks for your sweet response, much appreciated. I will look at your blog and into getting a babysitter. 

All the best with your new baby, and good luck with the Italian! 

Mireya x 


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Mireya, I am gringo, but learned spanish as adult in my 20’s.  When each of my kids were born I have spoken to them exclusively in Spanish.  Was VERY awkward at first for a couple months but stuck with it. now it feels awkward to speak to them (and for them to hear me address them) in my native English.  
our eldest is now 17 and going off to college fluent in Spanish and English and has already seen the rewards socially and economically of being bilingual.  
My advice, go Spanish, don’t mix/code switch/ or respond when addressed by them in English. This is difficult, but stick to it.  It gets easier and more natural. Don’t worry bout them learning English. If you live in English dominant culture, they’ll pick it up just fine. 
For me, it has to be all or nothing.  I remember what a struggle it was to learn second language and want my kids to leave the house speaking Spanish confidently.  No half measures here.  knowing just some of a 2nd language isnt much better than not knowing any.

Suerte!,  Alan in Texas

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