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My son is 28 months old and says very few words.   We live in Barcelona, Spain where the main languages are Spanish and Catalan (esp with regards to the school system).  Since birth I (mother) have been speaking to him in English. The father speaks in Spanish, at home we speak Spanish and Daycare speaks in Catalan.  I’m trying to determine if the reason why my son hasn’t made any significant improvements is because he has language delay or because he is still trying to figure out the languages.  He understands the commands that I tell him to do in English, but is reluctant to ask for things, he prefers using gestures.  And when either my husband or I insist he becomes frustrated and begins to cry.  My husband has expressed that my son doesn’t understand him in Spanish and is leaning more towards English.  In Daycare, which he started attending in Sept, 2010, has pointed out that he is having some trouble adapting to the routines and interacts lil with the other kids.

I’m beginning to doubt if I should continue speaking to him in English and begin speaking in Spanish.  Ugh!!!!

Would really welcome any other stories similar to mine or some really good advice on what I should consider doing……


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Hi Nicole. I remember when my daughter first began going to Chinese immersion preschool.  She would cry so terribly.  She began in August 2008, and only on October 30, 2008, did she not cry when I dropped her off at school. It was only later the following spring that her teacher said, “She is finally joining our group.” I speak only Latvian to her at home, her father only English; we live in America.  My first point being, school is hard for some children. It takes time, and a lot of time and strength on the part of the parent.  This is the time the child is being forced away from his parents, his home and familiar things, and I think those things are all equally new to him as the Catalan. It is easy to blame languages, because it is something tangible we can see and hear and speak and so aha! it might explain why my child isn’t thriving like I expect.  And sometimes there aren’t answers; it is just a difficult transition for some overall.  In my experience and in speaking with others, it seems understood that children, young children especially, tend to favor the mother. She is the one who provides the most for the child, nourishment, caring, time when often the fathers do less of this. It is not uncommon for the child to gravitate more toward the mother’s language. I certainly don’t think you have any cause to give up speaking English, except that the situation seems to be frustrating you and your husband some and so you want to do something to “help,” to ease the situation.  You live in Barcelona; I have no doubt your son will pick up and speak Spanish rapid fire.  Perhaps, in his first few years he will favor the English that his mother, the sun in his universe coos to him, but he will not live in Spain and not easily become fluent in Spanish. You are already using Spanish as a family, I honestly can think of no reason to remove the English from the equation… Just a small thought, have you had your son’s hearing checked? I have a girlfriend whose son lived two years without having his hearing checked, and he seemed distant, but he no one knew really the extent of his distance. He went to school, he spent time with the family, but there was distance and he wasn’t speaking.  They were terribly worried he was autistic. On the advice of a speech therapist they finally tested his hearing and this was his issue. Now he is thriving.  Try to be calm and strong in this time of change.  Are there any playgroups you could join, English or Catalan? Catalan for the boy’s sake, English for both your sakes? Even if you could find another person in your vicinity who is doing something similar; support is a very good thing to have, to help you through the harder times. Perhaps, your husband could join a swimming or tumbling or art class with your son, so that he and your son can find a way to bond more. There is so much communication that occurs without any particular (oral) language, without words. When that language is strong, the other language is just superficial.  Stay positive, stay strong, you are doing a good job!

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