Wednesday, April 6, 2011

bilingual girls

my beautiful bilingual girls 
The other day I was asking my youngest if she'd enjoyed the treat I'd packed in her lunch.  She proceeded to tell how she'd traded her wholesome home baked treat for "chocolate cornflay" (that is corn flakes pronounced in Panamanian Spanish--rising stress on the flay--apparently here in Panama, many people refer to all breakfast cereal as corn flakes).  My bilingual daughter, not knowing this, had not recognized that "corn flay" was corn flakes and thought it was something in Spanish she didn't know how to translate.  Her sister and I thought this was hilarious, but I am blown away by this translating that my kids do, normally it's so smooth--you'd think, talking to them, they'd spent their day at school in English and it's rare that there's a "corn flay" sized bump. They switch between the two languages easily.

I love their bilingual dexterity.  It is one of the things that makes me sure of our decision to live outside of Canada.  We could have attempted to raise our children bilingual in Canada (my husband is Argentinian) but I seriously doubt our kids would have such an easy command of both languages.  In our house mostly English is spoken (but certainly not exclusively) and books and movies and TV are mostly in English.  At school and extracurricular activities it's mostly Spanish (my kids go to a bilingual school, so they have core subjects in both English and Spanish). And of course there's all the day to day interactions in Spanish, out and about and with friends.  It makes for a very naturally bilingual environment--effortless second language acquisition.

When we left Canada eight years ago I really had no idea of what I was getting into.  I had this idea of our kids being bilingual, but I didn't know how amazing it would be. They are like chameleons, switching beween languages depending on who and where.  I never could have imagined all the language jokes, all the parroting of accents.  We take such pleasure in the vantage of knowing two languages, switching back and forth mixing it up (Spinglish, we call it in our house).  We enjoy anglicisms as if they were clever jokes.  At our house, I'm sure all breakfast cereal, from now on will be referred to as"corn flay."

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