Discovering words


Hello everyone. It’s been a spell since I posted. A lot has happened but this post is not meant to be a ‘catch up’ but rather a chance for me to articulate a personal struggle I have been experiencing for the past year.

As many of my past readers know I have a son. My son will be two coming up in December and just recently started part time preschool.  My husband and I are raising our son bilingual; meaning I speak to him only in Spanish (he does hear me talk to his father and others in English) and his father speaks a mixture of both. As my husband did not grow up speaking Spanish, despite his mother being bilingual and her first language being Spanish, it is important for us for our son to have parents who can speak both languages and for my husband to have a chance to have his Spanish grow with our child.

My area of training is in how people learn a second language. I grew up speaking Spanish until about second grade and then stopped speaking it as I internalized negative messages of what is was to be a Spanish speaker in the southwest in the 1980’s/early 1990’s. I learned to read and write and communicate in Spanish in ninth grade. It was hard, it was ugly, and I am better for it.

Despite my own experiences and my training I find it hard to watch my son take longer to “speak” than his monolingual counterparts. I know that boys take longer to manifest speech. I know it takes bilingual children longer to manifest speech as they are learning two at the same time. I know this and yet I still struggle to watch my son discover his words. I know he understands both languages. What he cannot ask for, he shows. He speaks to us in his way and I find it to be very efficient and effective. He is very expressive and yet it is not speech.

The academic me and the mother me don’t know what to do with each other. I have learned to document the words he does utter- papa, guaguo (woof aka doggie), didi (mommy), gogo (let’s go)- and help him in his utterances by describing what we are doing, labeling his toys, reading to him in both languages, and by naming objects around the house. It is a frustrating and time consuming task. I want to be able to have a conversation with my son where I know what he is saying.

I know it is a process and yet I am impatient. I know he will discover and manifest his words in his own time, just like he got his first two teeth a week before his first birthday. In the meantime I will continue to applaud all his other talents and attempt to surrender any notions of control I naively thought I could have (silly control freak).

Motherhood: where theory and research fight with developmental timelines and societal expectations (both of which are stupid and a setup for failure).

What are y’all thoughts on children manifesting speech? Anyone else raising their child bilingual and been in a similar situation? I would live to here from you all.

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