Two (or Three?) Words for Everything

When Guapa wants a cookie, she’s ready to use three languages to get her way.

So watch out.

We were recently visiting my parents (to Guapa, this is Nana and Papa), and Guapa and I were alone in the kitchen. Of course Nana has a cookie jar because that’s what good grandmas do, right?

So Guapa says to me, “I want gee-gee.” In her world, gee-gee is Guapa-Speak for Spanish galleta (English cookie or cracker, depending on the context).  

Being Mom, I said no.

Being a toddler, she insisted. Gee-gee. Gee-gee.

Being Mom, I kept saying no. No. 

That all changed when Nana entered the room.

Guapa tried, “I want gee-gee” on Nana and Nana turned to me — “What’s she trying to say?”

Before I could translate Guapa-Speak to English, Guapa spoke up and said clear as day —

“I want COOKIE.”

And of course, Nana (being a good grandma) gave her exactly that — a big chocolate chip cookie.

And while Guapa enjoyed her cookie, I marvelled at the fact that she had just (to the best of my knowledge for the first time) translated for herself. In her 2 year old mind, she was probably just trying out another word she knows for the same object of her desire.

But still. In my adult mind, she just SWITCHED LANGUAGES.

skirt

Two languages… and two cultures! Here she’s modeling a typical skirt from Costa Rica!

And I’ve noticed it happening since. If one word doesn’t work, she tries other words that she knows.

Bug or bicho.

Acky or asco. (Acky = A way in my family to say gross… we’ll call it English 🙂 )

Baño or potty.

Cat or gato.

Zapatos or shoes. (She actually shortens it to “patos” — so cute!)

And I’m again amazed. Being bilingual means you know two words for everything. Your brain becomes more flexible as it interacts with these two categories of words, which over time begin to sort themselves accordingly. As an adult learner, I literally FELT my brain going through this process of becoming more flexible (mostly via frustration), but Guapa is doing it right before my very eyes and is getting the hang of it.

Two words (three if you count signs!) for everything. At two years old.

2 thoughts on “Two (or Three?) Words for Everything

    • kathrynsiscoe says:

      Something is always better than nothing, so don’t be too hard on yourself! Reading aloud in your second language takes the pressure off of you to “be right” in grammatical sentences, so maybe that’s a good place to start? Thank you for checking out the blog and joining the bilingual journey!

      Like

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