To say that raising a child to be bilingual in the Mountain West region of the US is hard, is an understatement. The homogeneity of the population and culture doesn’t lend to diverse languages. In our home, you’ll hear English or Spanish almost daily, among others on a less regular basis. We love languages! And we’ve done our best to instill that love in our son (nearly 4 yrs old), el Güerito. Yesterday, we witnessed his biggest bilingual success so far!
There’s an Argentine bakery near our house that makes the best alfajores, cañones, and empanadas you’ll find in Utah. El Güerito has enjoyed going there occasionally when I need to refill my yerba mate supply.
About 3 weeks ago, we drove past the bakery and el Güerito begged to go inside. Seeing it as an opportunity, I said, “El Güerito, they only speak Spanish in that bakery. If you want to go inside, you’ll need to learn some Spanish.” Undaunted he asked me to teach him what to say. For about 3 weeks we practiced a “skit” that went like this:
Güerito: Hola, quiero pan dulce por favor.
Me: Muy bien, ¿cual quieres?
Güerito: Ese (points to the pastry he wants). ¡Gracias!
Me: De nada.
Yesterday, he tells me that he’s ready to go to the bakery. We practice once more, I see that he’s nailed it, and we head to the bakery. Once inside the bakery, the interaction couldn’t have gone more smoothly. He confidently followed his the dialogue he spent hours practicing and left with both a delicious alfajor and his chest held high. We were all thrilled! I was so proud I was nearly in tears! Hooray for small successes!
The bar has now been set a little higher. In order to go back to visit the bakery again, he needs to add 2-3 more phrases to that memorized dialogue. He’s already begun practicing :-)
UPDATE (4 April, 2016): El güerito’s interest in Spanish has exploded! We’ve begun watching Disney movies in Spanish (starting with Finding Nemo). He brings me more Spanish-language books to read to him than before. He notices when people are speaking Spanish, asks them if they speak Spanish, and then awkwardly pauses while he tries to think of what to say to them in Spanish. I even heard him bragging to his friends at the park that he’s, “pretty good at Spanish.” His confidence has soared!