As our children have gotten older, Love & Hope Children’s Home has developed into quite the bilingual household. We function in “spanglish”, if you will. Obviously, we mainly communicate in Spanish and English can also be heard all the time. But more often than not, we mix the two languages together! Even our Salvadoran staff surprise us sometimes, replying back in Spanish to a question that was asked in English or chuckling at words that were exchanged between two English speakers.
While clearly fascinated by language, the kids have a funny way of showing it sometimes. They like to experiment and play around with it. For example, Jacobo and Esau enjoy patronizing the Americans by speaking in Spanish with an American accent, leaving verbs in the infinitive, and speaking unnecessarily slow. Antonio thinks it is funny to sit in on a conversation between two of the Americans and repeat back everything they say, laughing hysterically to himself the whole time.
Little do the kids know that we Americans are secretly compiling a list of funny instances where they have spoken in Spanglish or broken English. It sure is adorable!
Eliseo: “Rapido, no! Fast, no!”
Irene: “Come-a here.”
Antonio: “Okie dokie!”
Michell: “Tell the boys to stop throwing earth at me!” (Meaning to say, “dirt.”)
Jeremiah: “I go to bathroom.”
Brenda: “I’m boring.” (Meaning to say, “I’m bored.”)
Antonio: “Come on!”
Eliseo: “Solo one.” (Spanglish for “only one.”)
There are also a few phrases that we hear over and over. The kids translate literally from Spanish and it sounds a little funny:
“Did you paint your hair?”
“I have hunger!”
“I need to make pee.”
As you can also imagine in a house where the fluent speakers of two different languages are living, there is a lot of correcting that happens. Some are more helpful than others. Ezequiel, for example, is wonderful at gently correcting mistakes that the English speakers make in Spanish. He helps one through a conversation rather than chuckling at the wrong words or pronunciations. The English speakers are always teaching too. The Love and Hope kids sometimes approach us directly: “What does this word mean?” “What is the past tense of this word?”
Our house is also full of text in Spanish, English and Spanglish. A lot of times, it happens unintentionally as we are thinking in one language but writing in another. Interesting outcomes are bound to happen. For example, for a while there was a sign in the kitchen that read, “Feliz Birthday!” Here is some of the bilingual signage around the house:
It is so interesting to watch our children learn more English and function in two languages. Everyday we hear them using new words and gaining confidence. We can’t wait to see where their language skills take them!