Friday, February 25, 2011

The first signs of bilingual rejection

I knew this would come someday, so I tried to prepare for it. We aren’t at outright rejection yet, but River has started to show a bit of resistance to the Spanish. I worry this might just be the beginning and may be a sign that he sees English as dominant, more important, more often used among his peers.

Today he asked me for blueberries, but refused to say the word in Spanish. “Quiero blueberries, muchos blueberries.”

I figured it doesn’t make sense to act like I don’t understand, since he hears me speak English with other people. So I asked him to say it in Spanish.

“Blueberries!” he repeated.

Mark also told him he had to say it in Spanish, but he wouldn’t.

An hour or so later, when it was clear to him that saying it in English didn’t get him blueberries, he asked for it in Spanish.

I don’t want language to become a subject for fights. But I do think it’s important for my kids to speak Spanish and I want them to stick with it. Eventually, I’d love to take him to a Spanish-speaking place for several weeks, where he can hear it as the dominant language and see children who use it as their main means of communication. But it will be a while before that is a possibility.

In the meantime, I’m thinking that I’ll continue to speak to him and read to him only in Spanish and will only fulfill his requests if he makes them in Spanish. If he eventually asks why I speak Spanish to him and English to dad and so many other people, I’ll tell him that I think it’s a beautiful language and it’s important for him and Willow to know so that they can travel many places and communicate with different people. He does have a strong interest in travel, so I’m hoping that will make sense to him.

But I’m not sure. I haven’t done this before and I don’t want to screw up, as it could affect his communication abilities and/or our relationship. Does anyone have any tips on how to avoid or deal with a bilingual language strike? Any thoughts on whether introducing Chinese this fall will make it better (my hope is that he’ll see that there are different environments for different languages and they are all useful) or worse?

1 comment:

Lainey Wright said...

My instincts say you should relax a little. Nothing is going to turn him off more to speaking a language than being forced to &/or having his mother refuse to respond to him unless he jumps through her (seemingly arbitrary to a 3 year old) hoops. My guess is that if you continue to speak to him in Spanish, he will maintain his comprehension whether he responds to you in kind or not. In any case, I would definitely think very carefully about requiring it in order to get his needs met by you (i.e. giving him conditional love) or making it a source of conflict in your home...