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Thursday, 20 October 2011

¿My Girlies or Mis Hijas?

This week I'm linking up again with Windmill Fields Expat Blog Hop

This weeks subject is Parenting: bringing up a multilingual- mulitcultural family. 
Well, we arrived here on April 16 and got the house as live able as we possibly could, the girlies were only 1 and 3  so I wasn't particularly worried about finding a school for them.  My knowledge of the Spanish language was limited to 12 hours of one on one classes - so pretty non existent.  I knew that I wanted to get my children into the normal education system and didn't want to go down the International school route.  For one the nearest school was a 45 minute drive away, and I also wanted them to have local friends.
Prior to coming here, we had embraced both Dora the Explorer and the BBC's Muzzy in a big way, so Spanish wasn't completely alien to them.  However, the thought of them starting school without any language was a bit alien to me. I endeavoured to find them a playgroup or nursery, where they could get a grounding in the language before they started school.  The first "Guardaria" I came across left me reeling in horror, accustomed as I was to British standards.  It was basically a room full of 0-3 year olds, left to their own devices.  Not for me. 
Luckily whilst shopping at one of the nearest Hypermarkets, I spotted on the other side of the road an "Escuela Infantil".  Joy of joys, they had an English teacher too, and if I could come back in an hour, she could see me!
After a tour of the baby room, the middle room and the big kids room I was ecstatic, this was more what I was used to.  They were duly enrolled and started two days a week on the first of June.  Girlie #1 (3) attended June and July - August of course they were shut! - and Girlie #2 did a whole year extra, which was increased to 3 days a week once her sister was in the "big" school.  Here, I later discovered that they could actually start "proper" school at age 3 - oh the shock.  This although not obligatory, was considered the norm, as it was both cheap child care and meant that if your child went for these 3 years, they would be at the same level as their peers.
They have both done incredibly well at school, and so far I've not had any reports from their teachers as to their lack of vocabulary or language skills.  They are now 11 and 13.

At home, we've always spoken English, and generally watch television in English.  Although the odd Spanglish word or sentence does get thrown in now and again.  Some words just sound better in the "other" language.  As their speech was competent, I didn't pressurise them with too much extra homework in English.  At 5 years old, Girlie #1 decided she would like to learn to read in English and retrieved Peter Rabbit from the bookcase.  She started

"peh - teh - rr"

"Ah, that's not exactly correct, in English, P and E together is 'pea'"

"pea - tea - rr"

"Oh dear, the word is actually Peter, let me think about this one and we'll come back to reading English another day!"

So, thinking about how I learned to read, I hurriedly "Amazoned" some ladybird, Peter and Jane books and we started again.

They are now fluent in the two languages, prefer to watch television and films in English, but read in Spanish.  However, they wouldn't miss out on a trip to the cinema with their friends.

Girlie #1, now she is in the "Instituto" doesn't like speaking to me in English in front of her friends, and prefers me to speak in Spanish too.  They come home with hilarious tales of mispronunciation by their Spanish English teachers.   Which has convinced Girlie #1 to become an English teacher - that and the long summer holidays!  She actually told me last night - Yes, I'm going to show them the light!!!

I'm also a little concerned of the portrayal of Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh as Pirates!!!  I mean they were god fearing sea captains and favourites of royalty!!!

There also seems to be a bit of debate about who actually won The Battle of Gravelines in 1588 too!

Culturally we flit between the two, adopting the customs that we like the best and fit in best with our lives.  We don't go to bullfights, but love the processions of the Moros and Christanos.  We will eat Cottage Pie one day and Paella the next.  I love taking my girlies out in the evenings - and occasionally 'til sunrise, but school days they are in bed "early".  We eat a big traditional Christmas Day lunch, but go to welcome the Three Kings too.

Basically, we try to fit right in with whatever is on offer and take each day as it comes.

I'm also pleased to say, that when they swear, it's all in Spanish too.  I'm obviously not such a potty mouth as I thought!


Nikki - A Mother in France said...

Oh yes I remember the Janet and John books - do they still do them? My son was a bit older when he started to want to read English, so I bought him some Usborne early readers to get him started as they seemed a bit more interesting.
Funny that you daughter finds it embarassing to talk in English in front of her friends. My 9 year old recently told me that he spoke with a French accent during his English classes! He's very shy and I think he doesn't like to stand out. I told him he should help the others by speaking English properly - I think we'll have to work on his confidence a bit!

MmeLindor said...

Good to know that your daughters took to reading English well. My daughter is 9 years old and just starting with this, and is so far doing ok.

I like to say that we are lucky, we can "cherry pick" cultural highlights. Just like you, we do Christmas day but a couple of weeks earlier, St Niklaus brings chocolates.

Sonriendo said...

Oh yes Nikki, we changed over to the Key Stage books too. The vocabulary was a little more varied, than "Hello said Peter, Peter said" LOL

Sonriendo said...

Mme Lindor - it is nice to adopt new customs as well as the old. Mine aren't really reading in English at the level they would've been, had we stayed there. But I don't think they're doing too badly either.

Vivian said...

We go through the same here. Ever since babies we completely inmersed them in the Spanish language and culture but by now the American influence and the language have overtaken. But we keep going..not matter how hard they fight. The girls are pretty good with it. My words...even when I'm in the car listening to my music he'll say. "NO Colombia Music!" He thinks ALL Spanish is Colombian. How can I get mad at him for that?

Sonriendo said...

Vivian we have lots of South American friends here. Wish my Girlies spoke more Colombian Spanish than Castellano - so much politer!!

Anonymous said...

Loved this post, Thank you for linking up. I got kicked out of English classes at Spanish instituto!!! I knew too much! Now I am an English teacher maybe to show them the light!!!:)

Anonymous said...

when my daughter, who was only 6 at the time arrived in spain with us her extent of spanish was a few scattered lessons and some Dora TV, within 18 months she spoke fluent Spanish to the point that a visiting Australian (of another family) thought it was her first language.

Sonriendo said...

It really is amaxzing the way they can pick up both the language and the local accent so quickly!!

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