Sunday, September 09, 2012

so what does Griffin think about learning Spanish?

After such a positive start to his Spanish immersion preschool program, Griffin has continued to make occasional comments and ask questions that show his awareness of the mix of languages swirling around him.

"Why is Pioneer [the school] so Spanish?"

"Do you know how to say 'red' in Spanish, Mom?  I do!"

"Daddy, do you know how to count from one to eleven in Spanish?"
"No, I don't."
"Okay, well it's uno dos tres cuatro cinco seis siete ocho nueve diez once!  Now can you say it?"
"No, I can't, Griffin."
"Why not?!  I learned you how to say it!"

"I can't sing the adios song to you because I don't know the words yet."

[To a stranger in the grocery store] "I'm going to be trilingual!"

"Maman, why do you only speak French to me?"

Noticing me watching the film Coco avant Chanel: "Ce film est en francais!"

Griffin: "We sang Je suis une pizza at school today!" [This is one of Griffin's favorites; it's by Charlotte Diamond.]
Daddy: "You sang a French song in Spanish class?"
Griffin: "No, silly Daddy!  We sang it in Spanish."

Hearing a new CD, Putumayo Quebec, at home: "What's that music?"
Maman: "C'est un CD du Quebec."
Griffin: "Pourquoi c'est en francais?"
Maman: "Parce qu'on parle francais au Quebec."
Griffin: "Oh, okay."

I've also started reading books in Spanish to him--my husband has never studied Spanish, which means that my several iterations of Spanish I and II over the past 20 years make me the default expert in our casa.  (I'm not thrilled about this, because my Spanish is weak and because every time I use Spanish with Griffin is time that I'm not speaking French with him.)  (Plus, I don't pronounce the R and RR correctly in Spanish--they come out very Gallic--and when Griffin repeats Spanish words after me he makes them sound French too!  That, though, will certainly change as he spends more time in his Spanish immersion classroom.)

Anyway, we've been reading a trilingual alphabet book, ABCx3 by Marthe Jocelyn.

Each page shows a picture of an object that begins with the target letter in all three languages (including the LL and N that exist in Spanish but not the other two).  Sometimes the words are similar, sometimes not.  Some of them are actually spelled exactly the same in each language, which Griffin picked up on right away.

Griffin: "Why is jaguar 'jaguar' in Spanish and 'jaguar' in French too?"

He even notices diacritical marks!  On the A page, he saw that the French "avion" becomes "avion" [imagine an accent mark over the O] in Spanish.  "Look, Mom!  In Spanish, 'airplane' has an accent aigu!" (Ah, if only more of my college students had shown this eye for detail and excitement about spelling.)

Can you tell that I love, love, love watching Griffin's linguistic developments and discoveries?  Yep, these 4+ years of speaking to him exclusively in my non-native French have been worth it!


  1. Great to see the excitement to learn a 3rd language!

    For Chinese with Pablo and Elena, I looked for French methods to learn mandarin. Like that I could maintain speaking French to them while learning vocabulary together in Chinese.

    Maybe you can find a French method to learn Spanish?


    1. Yes! That's a wonderful idea! I will start hunting for resources in French for francophone children learning Spanish. There's bound to be a lot online. Maybe some educational CDs with bilingual (Spanish-French) songs, too! Merci and gracias, Franck.

  2. Love this post! We are working on Spanish with our girls because frankly it's the only 2nd language we can both think well in. I've been working another language recently for myself, but would love for them to know it too. My oldest is only 2 and I'm wondering when a good time to introduce another language would be?

    1. Hello Ritzy and nice to "meet" you! I just checked out your blog and see that you have recommended a few resources in Spanish that I'm eager to show to Griffin. (Hooray for YouTube!)

      When would be a good time to introduce a third language for your older daughter? Yesterday! Ayer! Hier!

      But seriously, the research (and the parents I've spoken with) seems to indicate that it's never too soon. You might want to start by establishing a consistent context in which you use the third language (which one, by the way?).

      For example, whenever you're in the car with the girls, speak the language. Or during every afternoon snack. Or in a certain room. Or on a certain piece of furniture (or a blanket from the country spread out on the floor). Also, find a puppet whom you will introduce as being from that country so that he only speaks that language, and have him address the girls, sing to them, etc.

      Oh, and if you're using sign language with your baby, get her sister involved, and teach them both the signs along with the words in all three languages!

      Good luck--keep us posted how it goes! I am always thrilled to encounter another American using her non-native language with her kiddos.

  3. Hi Sarah! I want to start by telling you that I love your blog, it's been one of the first I started readng a while back, when I began looking for info on raising my daughter bilingually. We live in Romania and I speak English fluently (went to a bilingual school, etc) and that why I decided that I would love my daughter to learn the easy way. It's been a succes :) she speaks both languages fluently now (she is turning 4 this month). And, we actually started learning French 6 months and she's almost fluent in that also! She loves it! She said to me yesterday, 'Maman, je suis un fille francaise!'. She's recently discovered Spanish too, on the internet, and told me she wants to learn it too, that I should teach her. So I've been putting up a list of free online Spanish resources on my blog, maybe you find something interesting to use from it. Also, if you know other online resources, please please let me know :) we have very limited access to Spanish resources here.
    Here are a couple videos of my daughter singing and speakinf in French
    And here, in English:
    The blog is mainly in Romanian, but I plan to write in English too, soon. :)
    Best of luck to Griffin in his new school - I'm looking fwd to reading about his trilingual journey!

    1. Bonjour Adina, and thank you so much for your comment! It sounds like you have done a wonderful job with your daughter--she loves language and is enthusiastic and curious. Bravo!

      I took a look at your blog (and now wish that I could read Romanian). (Oh, I know a Romanian woman here in the US who works as a French teacher--I will pass your blog on to her, because her children are bilingual in Romanian and English.)

      The link didn't work for the French video, but I just watched the ENglish one and am so impressed by your daughter's English ability at not even four years old!

      Thanks for sharing your French and Spanish resources; you included some YouTube videos that are new to us. I'm starting a Pinterest board with links for Griffin: (not much there yet, but I'll keep adding).

      Do you have anglophone kids and opportunities to speak English where you live? How about French?

    2. Hi Sarah, thanks for your reply :) I've just written my first bilingual post (in En and Ro) if you would like to check it on my blog, I hope you like it!
      As for opportunities to speak En/Fr around us ... hmm ... not so many ... so yeah, I do worry about keeping the languages 'alive' for her over the next years ... we'll see how it goes. We do have some language clubs and a couple bilingual schools ...

  4. I'm so glad it's all working out well with the 3 languages, and I'm imagining the Spanish and French will really compliment each other. What a wonderful discovery to find the alphabet book in all 3 languages... and how clever is Griffin to already spot all the little differences! It's great when some of that non-native effort starts to pay dividends, and I'm sure you've got a head start with Griffin already being bilingual :-)

  5. I like the idea of the trilingual book too. We're just starting to get to grips with the reading thing here and I was wondering what to do about the differences in alphabet. I wonder of there's something similar for English/ Russian. If not, we could always make our own. How do they handle the letters that exist in one language but not others - do the words only appear for one language? Are there any letters which are pronounced differently but look the same? What do they do about that?

    (Sol from Verbosity: for some reason I can't sign in to comments today. The system is probably punishing me for not commenting in so long...)