Tag Archives: Spanish

The “J” of Spanish

Only two more days before Diego returns to school at his Spanish immersion program. During the winter break we’ve kept busy with holiday festivities, and we’ve had fun playing card games, board games and video games. We’ve also continued to practice his Spanish vocabulary whenever we can.

Diego’s Spanish has improved so much since he started the immersion program last year in kindergarten. He is so proud of himself and continues to remind us how, during a Spanish vocabulary drill on a family car ride,  he came up with the word for “pillows” before his 15 year-old sister, Olivia. Olivia,  who is in a high school Spanish II honors class, does not like to be reminded of that moment she was stumped by her 6 year-old brother.

This morning Diego tried to stump me with his own Spanish challenge.

D: “Mommy, what is the word for pencil?”

Me: Lápiz.

D: “Mommy, what is the word for paper?”

Me: Papel.

D: “How do you say “desk?’

Me: “Escritorio.”

D: “Noooo…It’s PUPITRE!!”

Me: “WHAT? Well, there are two ways to say “desk” in Spanish!”

An argument ensued, where I tried to redeem my Spanish fluency  in front of my little linguist. I lost. Diego offered some words of sympathy and encouragement.

“That’s okay Mommy. You can be the “J” of Spanish.”

What is the “J” of Spanish? I thought of all the Spanish vocabulary words which begin with “J” and could possibly mean, “Beginner,” “Novice,” “Loser.” Diego reminded me that we had been playing War with a deck of cards the other day, and he explained:

Daddy is the King. I am his Bodyguard and you are “J.”

“J?” I am only the Jack? Doesn’t a King need a Queen?

Diego tried to offer me more encouragement, “When you learn more Spanish you can be the Queen.”

Hmmp! I only hope that my Spanish will improve and I will be made Queen.  In the meantime, I may just stick to challenging Diego to games of War instead of Spanish vocab challenges.

Monolingual Mommy/Bilingual Baby

 If I could change something about my childhood, it would be that I did not grow up learning Spanish. My grandparents all spoke Spanish.  My father grew up speaking Spanish and is fluent in both English and Spanish. My parents made a conscious decision not to raise me and my siblings speaking Spanish. I believe this was because they wanted us to have a good command of the English language, and my father remembered the stigma that was associated with speaking Spanish in his youth.  I understand their decision and I appreciate them for wanting my  siblings and I to become strong in our English reading and writing skills.

 Still, I wish I was fully bilingual. Not that I haven’t tried to become fluent in Spanish. I took 3 years of high school Spanish, one semester in college, and post-college I attended 2 more years of Spanish evening classes at a community college. In law school I spent a summer living with a Mexican family, studying law in Mexico, and taking Spanish language classes. It’s my great frustration that despite all my efforts I can still only say that I am “conversant” in Spanish.

So, last year when Juan and I learned of a new program launching in our local public school district that would fully immerse the kindergarten through 5th grade students in Spanish, I was very interested. Diego was about to start kindergarten and on track to enroll in the same private catholic school that Nico and Erica attend. Juan and I had to make a decision to send him there or invest in our public school and put faith in this new program. We were on the fence because, honestly, our public school system does not have the best academic reputation, and we liked the small, family community and spiritual development our other kids were getting at their school

The day that we had to make the decision to send our seat deposit in for Diego at the private school, I was in San Francisco, attending a conference about the transitioning Mexican legal system. Prominent Mexican judges and attorneys were lecturing about their legal system, in Spanish. I was only one of a few attorneys who needed the aid of simultaneous translation.  That moment helped me to make the decision that Diego would attend the public school Spanish immersion program.

I have not regretted that decision. He is becoming bilingual and bi-literate. Soon he and Juan, who is a fluent Spanish speaker, will be able to talk about me without me fully comprehending what they are saying. Tonight, I am attending a special screening of the movie “Speaking in Tongues” at Diego’s school.  This film shows the benefits of dual language programs. It’s such an exciting concept.  I encourage anyone who is in the Pasadena area to attend this event.  And if you’re into “Twittering” please give this post a “tweet.”