April 8, 2013 by empraise
An amazing thing happened this week while we were on vacation. Little M began pronouncing a sound that is a “Spanish Only” sound…the “j” as in “jugo”. There is no sound quite like this in English, and I’ve always been intrigued by the thought that my son could grow up pronouncing and recognizing this sound as “native” and not “foreign”.
We were spending our vacation in Bali with our German/English bilingual friends. We were excited for Little M to get some more native German exposure, at a time in his life when his verbal skills seem to be taking off. Naturally, he did pick up some new German words auge (eye) and tschüss (bye bye), for example. But he also drank a lot of juice 🙂 So I was saying this word, jugo frequently. One day, his little lips puckered up and made this perfectly Spanish sound, between his throat and the roof of his mouth…j…jug…jugo. Well, it may not have been perfectly clear, but I certainly knew what he was saying!
We saw so many fish Little M also started saying pez. It is so precious to hear his little words forming and so bizarre to here these “foreign” languages coming out of his mouth!
There were also many opportunities for us (or at least me!) to feel inadequate…visiting bird parks and the Singapore Zoo full of exotic animals whose names I barely knew in English, much less Spanish, left me at a loss for words with Little M. I have also been unimpressed with the resources available on YouTube or apps to teach some of the more “interesting” animals in Spanish. Maybe I’ll have to come up with something myself!
We had many great late-night discussions with our bilingual friends. They are technically non-native English speakers, though both have been in immersion environments most of their adult lives and speak incredibly fluently. I asked them what they thought about our endeavor to raise Little M with three languages–two of them non-native and “non-shared”. The one main concern that surfaced was one they had felt themselves…that we would not be able to express or show our true selves in the non-native language. As a parent, this can be extremely disconcerting, and it is something I have been contemplating a lot lately.
How about you? Have you faced this concern raising a child with a non-native language? If so, how have you confronted it?