Breaking Through. Bilingual kids are cool.

When I found out that I was pregnant in 2008 I was overwhelmed with excitement.

Probably moments later, the fear and anxiety set in.

There I was: an American... preparing to give birth in a country that was not my own. An American whose Español was, up until that point, largely made up of genuine, yet trivial salutations. "Hola, Como estas? Gracias. Hasta luego."

Tee hee.

So I had the baby. She was fine.

The pediatrician thing worked out.
The vaccine thing worked out.
The breastfeeding thing worked out.
The speaking-in-Spanish thing worked out.
The solid food thing, the crawling, the walking, the going to school thing... all of that worked out.

As it always does.

And so this is how I work: obviously when when a worry or concern is squashed, I don't want my brain to be bored... so, I think of a new potentially life-threatening or life-altering or life-affecting concern to replace said squashed concern.

For me, it was Lila's speech. Her vocabulary. Her talking.

Lila started school, as they do down here, when she was 26 months old.

I still had no idea what she was saying when she started school.

Gibberish. Constant gibberish. Sounds. It wasn't spanish. It wasn't English. It was just... perplexing.

(Link here if you can't see the youtube video.)

It kept me up at night.

"When will she speak?"


I AM A TALKER. My desk has been moved in every elementary school classroom because I talked too much. I have talked to this child and read to this child religiously since she was in utero. I want her to love communicating, to love words, to love reading... but at this point, I think she's speaking Swahili.


I remember going back to to the States and seeing our friends' children who were months younger than Lila speaking far more clearly than she was. It made me nervous. Until we met with our Ohio pediatrician. He was Syrian. His children were bilingual. He told us: STOP WORRYING. It's going to take TIME.

Time went on... and we still had no idea what Lila was saying. It was incredible: she'd repeat the same sounds with the same intonations over and over again. It was like she knew what she was saying; we were the idiots.

Then one day, a switch flipped, and she spoke English and Spanish.

Like boom: ENGLISH and SPANISH.

Ah, ok...

So what my friends and family (and doctors) had been telling me about raising bilingual children was true. I had been told: she's listening, she's hearing language and will soon learn how to include language in her life. It will happen when she's ready; on her terms. Until then, her brain is working over-time to process everything.

It worked like that: BOOM - now we understand her. Now she's talking all the time. She's "reading" her books in a corner in her room. She WON'T SHUT.UP.

And that's how it's been and that's how it remains. Lila. Always.Talking. Always. Right now. All of the time. Talking, more taking, and still talking.

My first born is 5 years and 3 months old and she is bilingual.

My newest concern and stress has been this: How will this child of mine learn to love reading, just like I do. How will she learn how to spell correctly? Learn proper grammar? HOW?

HOW will she learn how to do these things when she's first learning to read in Spanish?
HOW will she learn how to read in ENGLISH when she's first learning the sounds of the phonetic Spanish alphabet?


[These are the concerns of someone who needed to remember that there is a WORLD outside of the United States and that other countries do know what they're doing, too. That's another blog post, though...]

So anyway, I like plans. I like to know what to expect.

Receiving a syllabus on the first day of classes during college Thank you for telling me what is going to happen next. I can now be prepared.

Let's just say for the past 16 or so months I've been flash-carding her, teaching her English Dolch sight words, teaching her English letters, doing the Victory Drill book with her, introducing her to Leap and the crew, etc. Meanwhile, she has been bringing home her Spanish reading book daily from school. I've seen the confusion. I've heard the frustration.

When you look at a letter and have to have your "Spanish Hat" on versus your "English Hat" -- how can you not be confused?

For example "i" in Spanish sounds like "ee", while "i" in English has both a long and short sound.

It's too much for adults, let alone for five-year-olds.

In Spanish, all of the words are phonetic. In English, they are what they are. Because they just are. Sigh.


So then there was today...

TODAY, was a breakthrough.

Very, very casually she grabbed some BOB reading books (we have a few collections of these and I highly recommend them.) and she started reading to me. She did great. We read a few, then went on with our day.

Then tonight, she found some more reading books that I just added to her bookshelf (they'd been around for a while, but she hasn't been there yet) and she proceeded to read 3 kindergarten-level books. SURE, she reads with an accent. SURE, she reads sounding many words out with Spanish pronunciation, but she quickly translates it to English.

I can see the wheels turning.

She read 3 of the little 10-page books and she was so proud.

(I could see her puff up.)

"Mommy, I'm doing it. I'm really reading."

Me: Do you want to keep going?

Lila: Yes. I do. I have to keep reading so that I can get better and better. I'm reading! Can you hear me?


So, I grabbed the 'ole "Go Dog, Go!" book that I had bought this summer.


You guys, my little spanish-accented sweetheart got to page 25 or so before we stopped for the night.

(Vivi was blown away. "Lila. YOU CAN READ.")

She was reading the words.
Using the illustrations as hints.
THINKING about every page - offering her thoughts on the book; what was silly, what was not.




"Will she love words?"

"Will she love books?"

"Will she love to read?"

Obviously the jury is still out... but what happened today was HEARTWARMING for me. All of our efforts... all of my worries...

"Let's just keep reading, Mommy... I want to see what happens..."


Me too, baby girl. Me too.


[NOTE: must think of something new to worry about.]


I love being her Mom.


Lila reading here.



  1. This is encouraging! Our 6 month old is being spoken to in Spanish by my Argentinian husband because we really want our son to be bilingual.

    1. Heidi - thanks for your comment! Yes, it will take time, but from what I understand "immersion" allows them to literally THINK in their two languages; no translation needed. It's awesome to watch... just let it happen.

  2. AMAZING!!!!! I cannot wait to listen to Doodle read... xoxoxo Go Mom Go... Start worrying about driving, you'll have plenty of time to let that marinate. xo

    1. I have to tell you, the reading has been EXCRUCIATINGLY painful at times. Like, that you nearly cannot take it. (I have been known to pour a glass of wine prior to reading time.)


      And driving! AH! We need to move from Mexico before that happens.

  3. Keira is not there yet and she is not bi-lingual. I feel very guilty b/c I don't do flash cards or anything with her. I need to step it up! She is just now learning phonetics in school. (Kindergarten). She recognizes 2 words. :-(

    1. STOP IT. This is just like any other kid-thing (potty training, solid foods, etc.) It will happen when it's supposed to. Leap Frog's "Letter Factory" DVD (and also available on iTunes) has been VERY helpful with sounds for Lila.

  4. Ack. This is making me sad that I didn't speak to the kids in French like I originally intended to. I've lost so much of my own language skills by not using them- it would be amazing if they could learn 2 languages at a young age. I'm glad it's working out for you guys too!

  5. Our girl is awesome (yes, OUR, please share). Of course she'll love books. Smart people know books are awesome, and CLEARLY she's beyond smart.

    Even I can relate to this. Cabo is so different than the rest of Mexico. Children are exposed to biculturism (is that a word?) and both languages since they're born. I had my concerns with Nico too. He was 2.5 years old and wouldn't talk. Turns out he was processing everything, in español and english. And now? Well, you've met the kid.

    Our babies got a gift for life with this language adventure. I love that we met in this little town and that they are growing up together. When Nico refers to your ladies and Deb's and Bry's kids, he calls them "mis primos de Cabo". Because they are. And that makes us sisters. And I love that. And you.


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