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I have a boy that just turned two and for about 6 weeks I have been speaking to him almost solely in Spanish though I am only advanced beginner to solid intermediate on a good day. I am a native English speaker living in the USA and my husband is English and only speaks English. My son is a bit late to speak but is intelligent and has gained a rapid understanding of the broken Spanish I speak to him in just these few weeks though as I said he doesn’t speak much at all yet, only a few words in English and a couple in Spanish. He is exposed to English all day at daycare so I don’t get a lot of hours to speak to him in Spanish but do so whenever I am with him usually between five and seven during the week and on weekends though he gets a lot of English on the weekends as well from his dad. I am desperately trying to learn as much as I can as fast as I can though there are countless words I can’t say and things I don’t understand. Lately I get stressed that I am limiting his vocabulary since I can only say so much in Spanish and am hoping that his dad speaking to him and that his full week of daycare will be enough to ensure at least he has a good vocabulary in English when he starts to speak. I am studying Spanish with a teacher each week and taking a couple of short trips to Guatemala over the year to live with a family and study Spanish (the second one I will take with my son next summer) but I worry I won’t learn fast enough. I have joined a meetup group for people who want to practice Spanish that meets a couple of times a month. I have also joined a bilingual Spanish moms group but it only meets for a few hours with the kids once a month and there is not much else going on in our area. We may hire a babysitter (native speaker) for a few hours each weekend but we don’t really have the money and I feel guilty about spending more time away from him when I am working all the weekdays. I read books in Spanish to him and play kids music that has Spanish or Spanish with translations and I point out things that I can but I don’t understand every single thing I read even at the children’s book level and lots of toddler boy vocab such as the various types and parts of vehicles I have no idea how to say!!!  

What do you think? Am I doing things alright? 

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I think you’re doing things just fine considering your situation.

You could always pick up a Spanish Phrasebook and try to add two or three new phrases to your arsenal each week that you will use regularly with him. (That way, if your grammar is less than perfect it wont matter) Or ask some of the moms from your playgroup to translate some phrases for you since it would be more natural than from just a book.

Continue to read and talk to him in Spanish like you are and dont worry a wit about his English. If its his community language he will learn it and alot faster than you’d think. You should continue to focus on his Spanish comprehension. Read and talk to him in Spanish as much as you can and whenever you get the opportunity. Getting someone Native to watch him on the weekends is a good idea if you can afford it. Maybe find a native mom and co-op or play date childcare every weekend. Or just let him watch you interact in Spanish.

I think what your doing is great. I’m taking a formal Spanish class for the first time in my life at 19 years old and hopefully when I start to have kids I will speak to them in Spanish since my whole family and community speak English. You’re inspiring me to work even harder at Spanish than before. Keep up the great work!!!


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Also, alot of DVD’s can be played in Spanish, so if you want him to get extra exposure make sure a large percent of his TV/Movies are in Spanish. By DVD’s as opposed to cable if you can swing such an arrangement in your household.

I KNOW my family wouldn’t go for canceling cable but I’d do it in a heartbeat if it were up to just me.

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Hi Siya,

Thanks so much for the response and the encouragement. I’ll just keep on working at it.  Just bought my ticket for a week in Guatemala this December studying Spanish and living with a family. I am excited!

Erik K

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You said he is in daycare. Can you switch to a daycare place that caters to Spanish speaking kids (such as children of immigrants)?

Can you find native Spanish speakers in your area? Ask them to recommend a good daycare place used by people they know.

Your son will learn the language best by interacting with other kids.


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Hi Erik,

Unfortunately I have been searching for a Spanish daycare but cannot find one anywhere near me. I live in Baltimore and though there is a growing Spanish community there still don’t seem to be a lot of opportunities to surround yourself with Spanish. The city just does not cater to the Spanish community much. For example, there is only one immersion language school that starts at age 5 but even that school does not offer Spanish! I did find one bilingual daycare outside Baltimore but it is just too far to take my son. I cannot afford a Spanish speaking nanny (we use in home daycare) but will continue to look for an in home daycare run by a native Spanish speaker but so far no luck.

Thanks anyway.

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