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  Reply with quote  #1 

So here is my little dilemma.   We live in the states and my entire family is from Costa Rica.  I was raised bilingual and my first language was in fact Spanish. My son is 2 and has been learning my native language, Spanish, since birth.  The way I’ve be going about this is basically to speak to him in nothing but Spanish and my husband speaks to him in English.  He truly is growing up bilingual.  However, there are certain words that he refuses to say in Spanish such as “gracias”.  When I tell him, “diga gracias” he will answer, “thank you”.  And each time I repeat myself in Spanish, he does the same in English, almost like he’s taunting me because he knows I want him to say it in Spanish.  He does the same thing with mariposa/butterfly and vaca/cow as well as a few other words.  When I tell him to say vaca, he will continue to say over and over “cow cow cow”.  It’s cute, but frustrating at times.  It seems obvious to me that he is in fact translating what I’m teaching him, but how do I get him to actually say them in Spanish?  Any advice would be appreciated.

  Reply with quote  #2 
Dear Susie,

your son is only “testing” you. He is trying to understand how consistent you are. He is doing it with language, but if you look more carefully, you will notice that soon he will try also to do it in other fields. I remember clearly that for a couple of weeks my daughter refused to give me her hand crossing the road when she was 2. Once she understood that there was no point because I wouldn’t let her cross without holding hands, she gave up that test … and found something else, of course!
My suggestion is don’t give up. Continue to tell him the Spanish words and ask him to repeat them. Even if he won’t do it at first, he will understand that you are clear in your requests and consistent in your behavior. This will show him that he can count on you, because you are not going to change your mind or give in and let him “win.” This applies to many more issues than his language: it will show him you are also clear about issues like right vs. wrong and build his trust in you for the long term.

Try also to organize soon a trip in a Spanish speaking country and let him notice that nobody understand English …. especially children. I’m sure it will help, too.

Good luck


Phyllis Foundis
  Reply with quote  #3 
Thanks for this fantastic question – you read my mind. I have a sparkling little 2 year old boy who has fantastic comprehension of Greek and English. Even from when he was still in the womb, I spoke Greek to him – and still do. My husband only speaks to him in English. This works really well for us since my husband has a very solid understanding of Greek (he says he won’t reveal how much he knows!). Anyway… in the last couple of weeks, my son has started to say – CAR, DOOR, BEAR and THERE – all in English. I’m trying to be encouraging, because I really want him to start speaking and communicating with us – and it’s all very cute to hear. But at the same time, it’s frustrating because I can’t wait to hear some ‘payback’ for all the passion I’ve showed in teaching my son Greek. When he says DOOR, I smile brightly and say yes, PORTA (in Greek) and then he repeats it again and again. But I don’t think he’s teasing me. The same goes for BEAR, CAR and THERE. I understand the need for consistency, but aren’t I confusing him by saying the word PORTA each time he says DOOR again and again? Or should I just be patient and believe that right now he’s only going for the easy-to-say words which happen to be English. Is this a time thing?
  Reply with quote  #4 
First of all, thanks for all the advice. 

Here’s my little update.  Keeping to Francesca’s advice, as well as my parents advice….consistency is the key!  Phyllis…trust me when I say, you are not confusing him!!  My son since then, does what I ask.  It’s almost as if he went through a time of testing and when I didn’t waiver, he folded!  Now…he says “gracias” and “vaca” with no problem!  He may tell me thank you from time to time, but then I’ll ask him, how do you say that (most recently asking how is that said in Spanish), and he will quickly correct it to what I want him to say.  So trust me, you will one day reap the rewards of your hard earned paycheck!!!!

All the patience…

Susie (~.~)
Phyllis Foundis
  Reply with quote  #5 
Fabulous encouragement, thank you Susie. How wonderful it is to speak with likeminded parents about raising bilingual children. I’ll keep coming back here. Gracias again Susie. Adios for now! x
  Reply with quote  #6 

So, it’s been more almost a year since my last post and I have to tell you that Ian is now speaking both Spanish and English with flying colors!!!  I have managed to find a channel called V-me on Dish Network that has shows in Spanish and he watches those.  Believe it or not, but he’s learned words that I haven’t taught him, but that he learned from t.v.  It’s funny to hear him say things such as “perfecto” (perfect) and disculpe (pardon me).  He really is a smart kid.  I’m so glad that he will have such great opportunities in life as well as know the culture in which he came from and be able to relate to those strong roots! 

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