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Kris Boyle-Topete
Reply with quote  #1 

My name is Kris and I live in California.  I am native English speaking, but am learning Spanish.  My husband is bilingual Spanish/English.  My problem lies with him somewhat. 


For the first 3 years of my older son's life (he's now 8), we lived with my inlaws who spoke no English.  His majority language at that time was Spanish, with English from me and my family.  Shortly after he turned 3, we moved out and he started preschool.  His teacher was also bilingual, as was his babysitter, and they spoke Spanish to him as well on occasion (but not frequently as most of their other charges spoke only English).  My husband kind of dropped the ball and got lazy, and began to speak to my son primarily in English, with only a few Spanish words thrown in on occasion.  It has fallen to me, with my shaky Spanish (though I am working on improving) to teach my son.  It is frustrating for me and I have begun to insist that my husband speak to our son again in Spanish, but now my son resists and demands that we speak English.  He does understand Spanish, and answers in English so I know that he understands, but he refuses to speak Spanish.  I have tried to institute Spanish only days, but it is difficult as my English speaking only mother lives with me.


Now to add to the complications, we have a 17 month old son to work with.  I have insisted that my husband speak to the baby in Spanish, and so far he has complied, and I do some as well (in addition to teaching him some baby signs).  He's not saying much, but he seems to understand both languages so far.


I'm at a loss what to do with my older boy.  It is very important that he speak, understand and read Spanish as a great part of his family speak no English.  We homeschool and I have been working on workbooks and am planning to begin Powerglide Spanish.  Any other suggestions?  I'm getting so frustrated.



Reply with quote  #2 
As I’ve mentioned to many parents, you may still get lucky that your son will start using Spanish later on in life since he has such a good foundation, but that comment is obviously is not going to help you current frustration. Instead, time for action ;-)

Roll up the sleeves and prepare for battle because your sour son is not going to like it. But, if Spanish is important to you you’ll have to be as stubborn as he is and fight him for a while on it (about 3-6 months, is my guess). Simply put, there are really only two alternatives, his way or your way... The light at the end of the tunnel is: with that much Spanish in his early years he does know how to speak it, really. Still, human nature is ‘the path of least resistance’ (and seeking convenience is frankly the mother of many inventions, so not a bad thing in itself). Unfortunately, when it comes to raising bilingual children, resistance is a part of the process.

Your husband seems to share your son’s sentiment on the effort of speaking Spanish... I’m a bit surprised that he’s not more motivated, since it is his language more than yours. Have you tried talking to him about the value of his heritage? Another argument he may listen to is explaining how important it is four your boy’s future, and how English-speaking families spend thousands of dollars on Spanish speaking nannies just to have their children get ahead and grow up bilingually? Several good news articles here to argue your case.

Anyhow, here’s my recommendation: Try to turn the family language into Spanish from now on, the only exception being your mother. Here are tips on how to transition your older son back to Spanish.

In closing, when the going gets tough, remember that this is something your son will always be grateful to you for (although the thanks is still many years out — but hey, parenting is not for the ones seeking instant gratification). Your husband, he should thank his lucky star that he has such a fantastic wife!

More power to you, and let us know how it goes.
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Christina Bosemark
Founder & List Moderator
Multilingual Children’s Association
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