Thursday, January 13, 2011

English surpasses the Spanish

1/13/10 English surpasses the Spanish
River again participated in a research study of preschoolers, so I was able to obtain an update on his language skills. The procedure is to go through the test until the child gets some wrong, then they stop. This time, he made it all the way through the test, in both Spanish and English. But he got a few things wrong in Spanish (he didn’t answer the math questions correctly, nor the phonics, and he may have messed up a half cookie versus a whole cookie) and was able to answer the same questions in English. So I think his English has now surpassed his Spanish.

The researchers thought he did great and said they couldn’t wait to see where he is at age four. I was relieved he was docile and cooperative with them, as he was last time, though I feared that might not be the case given his behavior in recent weeks. But I was admittedly a bit bummed that the language I speak with him is now in second place. I take it not only as a sign of how the rest of the world has more influence over him than I do, but also an indication that perhaps my Spanish is not up to snuff.

I’ve definitely been feeling deficient lately. While I’ve learned some words of interest to him, like bulldozer, excavator, and tugboat in Spanish, the English books go so much further to talk about the technical parts of each of these machines. I don’t know the technical parts and it’s a lot of work to learn them. Also, there aren’t any books easily available in Spanish that have this kind of detail. I spoke to the librarian about it and she agreed, saying, “This is when they start to speak English, because the richness of the language available to them in English surpasses what they have access to in Spanish.”

I’m also feeling deficient in everyday conversation. He asks me words like vulture, slush, curb and rust that I don’t know off the top of my head. Even if I look them up later, I don’t always remember them.

So this is the point where it’s tempting to give up, but that’s not my tendency, especially when he’s not actively resisting yet. Instead, I have to improve my Spanish. I need a way to look up words quickly, wherever we are, as soon as he asks. Mark says I should get a smartphone, but that is too expensive. I’m thinking of perhaps getting a Kindle with a Spanish dictionary. Any other ideas?

I’m also going to make attending the Spanish-language monthly book club a priority, attend the Spanish-language La Leche league meetings while I can, accompany River to the Spanish story hour during my maternity leave and generally make more of an effort to bring my language up a notch. It would be great to take him to a Spanish speaking place for some mother-son Spanish-immersion, but that’s not very feasible in the budget now or with breastfeeding. Perhaps that will be a goal for after Willow is weaned.

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