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.

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Resource: Most Recent YouTube Channels

 (Yes, thank you, I know that screen time for little people should be limited. Yes, we have limits in place for Guapa. And yes, we know that YouTube videos are known for being tagged one thing and being completely another thing (usually not child appropriate)… )…

Well, now we have the disclaimer out of the way. Whew!

Okay, so when Guapa has some screen time, here are our two recent go-to channels where we know the whole family will enjoy being immersed in Spanish :).

Up first — BLIPPI!

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Language Evolution: How “Gat” Becomes “Gato”

The first time I heard Guapa say “cat”, I was super confused.

We were in Costa Rica visiting Tico’s family, and Guapa was fighting her afternoon nap. Picture this: A sunny afternoon in a bedroom with transparent curtains, a pack’n’play with Guapa, and a double bed with me (almost sleeping already). Guapa’s portable crib was right next to the window, and I cracked my eyes open to realize she had pulled back the curtains and was looking into the flower-filled alleyway.

“GAT!” She declared.

I’m like… um, what?

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Language Inventory at 2 Years Old

I gave up on this post a few times…

I have tried. I have made valiant efforts, I promise.

And I have to finally admit it! I can’t keep up!


Her language abilities are evolving daily, if not momentarily, and keeping a list of words she can say is no longer adequate.

So here’s my best effort at a language inventory, because something is better than nothing, right?

We’ll include a few videos this time around so it’s not just me talking about her talking, but you can actually hear her for yourself!

(Bonus: She’s just so stinking cute!)

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Series Post: How Does It Feel to Be Bilingual? (Full of Surprises)


If you’ve missed any of this week’s posts on how it feels to be bilingual, check out why what some call “Spanglish” might pop out of my mouth from time to time (here).

We’ve also discussed necessary language pep talks here.

A final factor in how it feels to be bilingual is that I regularly surprise people that I speak Spanish.

This part is so fun!

I often forget that my face doesn’t match my second language (as far as general assumptions and stereotypes go), so I just start speaking Spanish without thinking, until I noticed that look. You know, the LOOK.

I recently received the LOOK from an Indian woman working as a cashier at Target. I was with my mom and sister waiting for them to pay for their purchases when I overheard this cashier a few lines over asking her manager if anyone was working that could translate for the customer. I left my mom and sister with quizzical looks in their eyes too as I walked into a situation of translating for strangers.

I interrupted the conversation (tactful, I know), “I speak Spanish.”

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Series Post: What Does It Feel Like to Be Bilingual? (Pep Talks)


Favorite author moment: Sandra Cisneros. If you have not discovered her written jewel The House on Mango Street, please stop reading this blog and go check it out at your local library. You won’t regret it!

I even chose my favorite quote from Mango Street and painted it to hang in my house for forever.

Anyway, Sandra hits the nail on the head by describing how she can chatter away like a parrot in her first language (in her case, Spanish) and how she does not yet have confidence in her second language (English).

For me, I’m the confident English parrot and the insecure Spanish wallflower.

Speaking only Spanish still requires self pep talks.

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Series Post: What Does It Feel Like to Be Bilingual?

I seriously did this the other day while talking to my husband:


And then two seconds later, I clapped my hand over my mouth and said, “Did you just hear what I said?!”

Yup, I changed languages about 5 times while speaking the same sentence.

A good friend asked me the other day: “What’s it like to be bilingual?”

I’d never really considered “what it is like,” let alone how to explain to someone else the feeling of two languages forever active in my brain. In that particular conversation, I jumbled out some scratch-the-surface answer and of course kept thinking about it later. If I could go back to that conversation now, here’s (a long version of) what I might say:

First and foremost, it feels like having two radio channels in my brain.

If I need to speak English, I switch to channel 1. If Spanish is what I need, I switch to channel 2.

It’s like having an invisible remote control that I can use to adapt my own thinking radio channel. (Apparently, they call this executive control.)

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Language Strategy: When Life is a Tidal Wave

Well, after a couple of intense meses (i.e. December and January) of getting the blog up and running, February hit like a tidal wave. Ever had that happen before? If you’re humano and busy, we’re probably in the same boat, at times enjoying the peaceful calm and sunshine; other times using whatever bucket that’s handy to scoop water out of our boat, avoiding the possibility of capsizing.

You know, survival mode.

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Book Recommendation: Love in Translation: Letters to My Costa Rican Daughter


Love in Translation: Letters to My Costa Rican Daughter

By Katherine Stanley Obando

I’ve never met Katherine in real life. It’s one of those friendships where you actually have never heard each other’s voices. Sounds a bit strange, yes? Let me explain.

Katherine and I (also Kathryn!) are both part of an online group of women that talk about bicultural issues, particularly family and marriage questions. This group was started by my Costa Rica best friend Trish (who’s actually from Ohio and also married to a tico!), who also has a cultural blog here. We’ve all enjoyed connecting with other women all around the world that are also in this bilingual adventure we call bicultural marriage.

And that is how I met Katherine. She is naturally super-excited about her new book Love in Translation: Letters to My Costa Rican Daughter, based on her personal blog, and of course she shared it with our group conversation. And since I’m such a lover of all things reading (in my 5 seconds of free time), I went straight to and bought it.

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