September 03, 2009

No Habla Espanol

I live in an area with a large Hispanic population. I am now kicking myself for taking French in high school and college. I actually learned Spanish throughout elementary school, which is why I opted for French later in life. I simply wanted a change. Now I wish I had put more thought into which language I learned.
I grew up in a college town, which is not the area where I currently live. My elementary school was the closest to campus and so we had numerous children of international students in our class. Some of the parents would come and teach us about their cultures. In kindergarten and first grade we learned a lot of Spanish. My dad says I could even converse in Spanish at that age, but clearly I have lost that skill. Years later, maybe around fourth grade, we learned Arabic. Many of my close friends throughout elementary school were from Malaysia, although they spoke spot on English, so language was never a barrier. Keep in mind all of this happened in (gasp) a public school.
I know there are people who say if you live in the U.S. you need to speak English and nothing else. I'm not trying to stir that pot with this post. Still, because of where I live, I wish I had a better grasp of the Spanish language. It would make my retail job a lot easier. For the record, I also wish I had a better grasp of American Sign Language, as I have had numerous hearing-impaired customers recently. I took an ASL class in college, but my skills are rusty and I don't think these customers want to stand around all day while I finger spell everything.
My daughters are learning Spanish in preschool this year. The teacher's aide in their classroom is one of the only bilingual aides, so many of the students in the class are bilingual or only speak Spanish. I think being exposed to Spanish at a young age will be good for my girls. On the way home from school yesterday, Roo told me some of the kids were speaking Spanish in class. I asked her if she knows Spanish, too. She said yes... "Hola, mommy." It's a start, although I think she already picked up that much from Dora the Explorer.

9 comments:

Stephanie B said...

I've always thought it a pity we didn't learn more about language and stress learning foreign ones as is routinely done in other countries. Not only is a healthy way to learn about other cultures, but you never know when you need it.

Rather than worry about keeping the purity of our own language, perhaps we should remember that language is there to provide communication and, in the end, that's the real goal.

I hope your girls learn some Spanish. I wish I retained more (and my French, too).

jayewalking said...

That's great for your girls! It's so great to be exposed to another language at a young age. They'll probably pick up quite a bit. My oldest is in French immersion. I wish I'd continued with my French instead of trying Italian!

Quadmama said...

I think the younger you are the easier it is to learn another language. Surprisingly I've actually had some French speaking customers lately, but I didn't want to embarrass myself by trying to muddle through the language.

Sadia said...

Actually, it's been proven that the younger you are, the most fluently you pick up languages. The "critical age" for developing a native-like grasp of a language is about age 7, although I'm actually one of those who started some of my languages quite a bit later and still gained monolingual-like fluency.

I too took French; I thought I'd be attending university in the UK. I don't speak Spanish, although my Italian makes it easy for me to make myself understood.

I've asked one of my neighbours to speak to my daughters only in Spanish, and they're starting to respond, in that they answer her in English.

Just tonight, at dinner, Melly asked me, "What's purple in English?" meaning Bengali. Hurray!

Brooke said...

That's wonderful that you're getting them started in Spanish so young! I too regret learning French in school - but I figure it will be a great foundation when I do get my butt in gear and learn Spanish - it's not too late!!!

Anonymous said...

It's very common for children to be bi-lingual here in Malaysia. Although Malay is the national language, English is widely used both in the corporate world and higher education. Being a colony of Britain once upon a time, that is no surprise. However, I have chosen to also send my children to a Mandarin-medium elementary school, so they are tri-lingual!
-one of your Malaysian friends in elementary school- :-)

Roman and Tiffany said...

Ryla is also learning Spanish in pre-school. She has Spanish three times a week and Mandarin once a week. Her school actually brings in an outside teacher for Mandarin class. It is so cute when she says 'Ni Hao Momma'. I think it is great that they are able to learn other languages and such an early age!

Quadmama said...

I think it's really teaching them about the "melting pot" this country is. Mandarin.. now that's one I didn't realize was commonly taught here. Interesting.

MaryAnne said...

Your daughter's preschool sounds great! I spent three years in France as a kid, and the public school we went to there required all children to speak two languages. It was a great school, and I still speak great French thanks to the teachers there. Your post is making me rethink trying to do French as my kids' second language - I speak French and Spanish (spent 3.5 years of my childhood in Central and South America, my parents move a LOT) but French is stronger so I was going to go with that. But then Spanish is more useful in the U.S...

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