Learning Spanish

Everyone assumes that because my children were born in Guatemala they speak Spanish. They do not. Am I proud of this? Of course not. To the contrary: I worry about it a lot.

Neither my husband nor I speaks Spanish fluently; when I lived in Antigua, I studied for a few months, enough to make myself understood and get by (as long as I was speaking in the present tense). Home now for almost six years, the little I learned is rusty. I don’t get enough practice. A good role model I am not, not that I haven’t tried.

For one year, we had a live-in au pair from Ecuador; Olivia attended an after-school program for two. But none of that is the same as speaking day-in, day-out, hearing it, living it, being immersed. Even more of a challenge is that neither Olivia nor Mateo shows any interest in the language.  Olivia, especially resists. A second grader, she studies violin after school and attends religious instruction. Spanish feels to her like one more burden, something else (groan!), she is forced to do.

Then Olivia and I visited Guatemala, and everything changed. Suddenly, my daughter recognized the value in being able to communicate with an entire country of new people who looked like her, who were born the same place she was. “Mom,” she said the first day, something akin to awe in her voice. “They speak Spanish here.”

Come fall, Olivia will begin Spanish in third grade, a requirement in California. I’m already planning our next trip to Guatemala where we can study at one of the excellent language schools.

Learning a language doesn’t happen overnight. But for our children, especially, it’s critical. Poco a poco. One day at a time.

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2 Responses to “Learning Spanish”

  1. what a great resource that will be for them and yes, de jour en jour.

  2. Jessica says:

    Lucky Sadie will be fluent in French. You as well, I bet. Thanks for the comment.

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