7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 213)

April 5, 2013 | 55 comments

— 1 —

I had a bunch of wry commentary typed up along the lines of “as you read this, I’ll be having robot tubes carrying metal filters stabbed into my neck with no sedation, ” but now I have had to delete it, as I don’t know what I’ll be doing while you read this. You see, first I got the call that the procedure would be done through my neck instead of my leg. Then I got the call that it would be Friday (today) instead of Wednesday. Then I got the call just a few hours ago, at 5:30 PM on Thursday, that the hospital where it was scheduled refuses to allow us to do it there because I’m pregnant and my OB doesn’t have privileges there. BUT, the vein specialist I’ve been working with doesn’t have privileges where my OB does, so he can’t do it at the new hospital, which means we have to find a new vein surgeon. Meanwhile, it’s supposed to be done before labor, and labor is still scheduled for Monday, and everyone would strongly prefer not to push the induction back due to the risk of me going into labor while on blood thinners. I’m not sure what the current status is, but my impression is that my OB is downtown pulling people off the street to find someone who can do this procedure today.

Will I have metal objects pushed into the vein near my heart by way of my neck? Will it be today? Which doctor will do it? Where will it happen? Will I be able to get anesthetic now? Will we need to reschedule Monday’s labor induction? Tune in for the next spine-tingling episode of Battlestar Craptastica to find out! (I.e. I’ll be updating on Twitter.)

— 2 —

I’ve been keeping friends and family updated by text messages, and my increased reliance on this form of communication has made me realize anew that I seem to have some kind of social anxiety issues when it comes to the written word. Everyone else in the world seems to manage texting just fine, but it’s utterly overwhelming to me. I’m fine when it comes to my parents or other people I talk to all the time, but corresponding with others by text is just about more than I can handle. I mean, one does not just dash out a reply to the inquiry, “How r u doing?” This requires a lot of analysis: How much detail should I go into? Should I ask her how she’s doing too? Will I seem rude if I don’t include a peppy emoticon? Or does she perhaps think people who use a lot of emoticons are lame? Should I reference that email from last week that I haven’t replied to yet? Like I said: a lot of analysis. And since my phone doesn’t have a Mark as Unread option for texts, once I read a new message I’m filled with anxiety that I’ll forget about if I don’t reply immediately (which I can’t do because, you know, analysis).

Anyway, my impression is that other people do not find texting to be such a burdensome activity.

(Also, now you understand why I’m so bad at replying to emails.)

— 3 —

Last week we had the honor of going to dinner with one of my favorite authors, Paul Jaminet. If you haven’t read his book, The Perfect Health Diet or checked out his blog, stop what you’re doing and remedy that grievous error. The meeting with Paul was part of a dinner party at Albert Oaks with some other nutrition gurus who were in town for the Paleo FX conference. Not surprisingly, the food was delicious:

I’m not even sure what this dish was, I just know it was astonishing. It was served with great wine, all the veggies were from the expansive gardens in behind Albert Oaks, and the meal was topped off with garden-fresh strawberries doused in homemade cream. YUM!

— 4 —

At the dinner party, I got to sit next to Russ Crandall of the Domestic Man blog. He is a super-nice guy who has an amazing story about how lifestyle and diet changes drastically improved his health (and hearing about the medical procedures he’s been through makes my own issues seem like a relaxing day at the spa). He’s working on a cookbook that promises to be amazing, so stay tuned to his blog for more details about that.

— 5 —

I have a question about kids and language: I have always dreamed of raising my kids to be bilingual in Spanish and English, but I’m finding that it’s much easier said than done. In fact, it occurs to me that the only cases I’ve ever seen of truly bi/multi-lingual children were where:

  • One of the parents was a native speaker and only spoke the language in the home, or…
  • The children went to a school that had an immersion language program starting at an early age, or…
  • The family lived in a foreign country where the children were immersed in the language.

Since none of those options are currently available to us, I’m wondering: Is there any other option for raising bilingual kids? Is it possible to do that through at-home study or occasional classes alone? I’m not going to give up on foreign languages either way, since some exposure is definitely better than none, but I’d just be curious to know if there are any other options other than the three above.

— 6 —

My aunt recently told me something hilarious: They live near Billy Graham’s headquarters, and her husband’s name is William Graham, and so they’re constantly getting calls from people who look them up in the phone book hoping to contact Billy Graham. She says that sometimes people talk for a quite a while before she has a chance to tell them that they have the wrong number. She and her husband are people of deep faith (she rediscovered Catholicism later in life, and her husband converted at the same time she came back to the Church), and so she always assures these folks that she will pray for them, even though this is not the Reverend’s house.

I think there’s a huge missed opportunity there. Since her husband’s name is, technically, a form of the Reverend’s name, I told her that she should tell people, “Yes, Billy Graham is here. Did you know that he is Roman Catholic now?”

— 7 —

I guess I can no longer read. I was just looking at the InLinkz interface, and saw this plain and clear:

Not sure how I missed that. So, it is finally Procrastinator’s Week here at 7 Quick Takes! Most recent entries on top!

I’m off to do…I have no idea what. Updates on Twitter. Thanks for your kind words and prayers over the past week! I can’t tell you how much they’ve boosted my spirits.



  1. Lauren (LPatter)

    praying. all will be well!!!

  2. ichen

    In response to the bilingual question. I was raised bilingual (my parents are immigrants from Taiwan) so I grew up learning Mandarin Chinese and English. I consider myself fluent in spanish (not on the same instinctual level as chinese or english, but I can hold conversations).

    I think exposure is key. I didn’t start learning spanish in a formalized way until 6th grade, but I had been exposed to some basics before then. (I had a spanish computer game in which all I learned were the colors, numbers 1-10, and a few animals. But I got used to hearing spanish, I think it helped later on.) The best advice I got was in my 2nd year of learning spanish: the teacher told us to stop thinking in english and try thinking in spanish (tell that two a bunch of 7th graders who barely know any vocab…). But it helped: something clicks differently when you treat it as another language and less of a “translation” process in your head. Instead of starting with what I want to say in english, I try to get as much as I can in spanish and then look up when I’m missing.

    Hopefully that made sense.

    The other option is to just restrict all of their media exposure to Dora the Explorer…

    • Elizabeth

      I agree that thinking in the language helps. I spoke only English until I took French in college. After 3 years of study I became fluent. At first the suggestion that you should think in the language makes no sense whatsoever, but if you practice going from point a: idea in brain that you wish to communicate, to point b: creating sentences in the new language – rather than point a: idea in brain that you wish to communicate, point b: creating sentences in English, and point c: translating them into the new language – well, it cuts out the middle step using English, you begin to think in the language, and it does help.

      • GeekLady

        That’s extremely hard for some people to do, though. I don’t know about you, but I largely think in sentences already.

    • pilgrims progress

      I agree thinking in the language is the key. I was not raised bilingual, but I routinely work in two languages when editing and translating. As far as kids goes and generally getting your family to go along with the “we-are-not-going-to-be-monolingual” idea, I would say take them to Spanish mass. They will participate to the extent that you do. My little girl is five and that is a great age for language questions. She sometimes asks if we can REALLY speak Spanish. My response is: of course you can. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t. The biggest thing you have to remind them is that yes, they can and they will be expected to use all the words they have (English, Mandarin, Spanish, et.c.) There’s a lot out there that will tell them they “can’t” , but by putting them in foreign language situations that are not too challenging, they learn that they in fact can and will be able to use those words too. Good luck and God bless!

  3. Fran L.

    In response to #5 my son is currently attending an immersion program, but next year we are homeschooling (6th grade). My husband and I don’t speak. We want to keep it up and are looking for ways to do that for him. He at least is bi-lingual/bi-literate already. I would love suggestions too!

    Praying for you and baby! God is holding you in the palm of His hand! God Bless

    • Susan M

      Fran, Thank you so much for your comment. Please, please don’t think that I am nit picking but I thin you left a word out. At least, I hope so. Anyway, like sometimes happens, it made for very funny reading.

  4. Elizabeth

    I’ll add you to my prayers. Beyond that I don’t have much to say. Because metal things. In your veins. In your neck. It robs me of words. But. I will be praying that all goes well and the Holy Spirit grants you a great deal of peace.

  5. nancyo

    Suddenly, what I really want for you is to have metal things implanted in your veins – somewhere – soon. And then, an uneventful delivery of a healthy baby boy! Will keep you in my prayers.

  6. Monica

    I think it is quite possible to become fluent as an adult, after exposure as a child. I didn’t study French until high school, then did four years plus 1.5 years in college. Finally, I did a semester abroad, and that cemented it in. I’m fluent in both languages and live in Switzerland with my French speaking husband. Our kids are bilingual.

    Good luck with the robot probe… I hope this gets figured out fast!

  7. Ellis

    As for the foreign languages, I live in a small country and few people in the world speak our language. So, it is very important for us to know foreign languages, especially English, since it is hard to function otherwise (TV program is mainly in English, manuals are mainly in English, software is mainly in English, foreign correspondence is mainly in English and so on and so on). And people really do speak English very well, especially young people, even without any of the three conditions present. We do have mandatory English lessons since third grade, mainly two hours per week, but that is not the key. The key is, in my opinion and experience, extensive TV program in English. Our program is not dubbed, but titled. And in my experience, that is the best way to learn foreign languages. I perfected my English in a year when I watched an episode of Santa Barbara on a daily basis. I did have a year of intensive grammar lessons in a private school previously, but it did not make me speak English well. Santa Barbara did. Interestingly, the same way I learned Spanish even without any lessons. I watched Mexican telenovelas on a daily basis for a year or two, and my Spanish became fluent (though with a bit limited vocabulary since telenovelas do not burst with many interesting words 🙂 ). The same way I learned to speak a bit of Italian and a bit of Portuguese. To contrast it with school learning I shall say that in school I learned French for 5 years and German for 4 years and I hardly understand them at all. So my advice is – find some TV program in Spanish, that would be interesting to kids, and make them watch it on a daily basis for an hour or so. The best thing would be some series or something like that. In can be even some American popular TV series, but dubbed in Spanish.

  8. Magnificat

    Spanish kindergarten, maybe?

  9. drustee

    Praying for you.

  10. Colleen

    Wow, dinner with The Perfect Health Diet guy?!?! So cool!

    Praying all happens in God’s time, and happy last weekend without a newborn 🙂

  11. Mary

    Praying, Jen! I totally want to come doula for your birth. If only for the entertainment value of it all.

    And I just only recently began texting and only to my husband. I still have mental anguish over whether or not I should use the texting lingo. It physically pains me to use a U for “you” or not put in the correct punctuation but with my non-keyboard phone I totally see why people do it.

  12. Christine

    I am still praying for you.

    Also, I have a friend who was in Russian intelligence while she was in the Navy. She’s fluent and learned it all through Rosetta Stone. I’m planning on buying a set this summer to give my high schooler a jump start on her language requirement with Seton, which is supposed to start the following year.

    Oh, not Russian for us–probably Spanish or French. (My friend did teach me to say, “Hello, Comrade. Give me all your candy!” in Russian for when we went trick or treating as the Avengers. I scared a lot of people because I kept yelling it as I pointed my Dollar Tree sheriff’s gun at them.)

  13. Amelia

    Prayers for your super, scary sounding procedure.

    I hate texting too…in fact I hate it so much, I don’t have texting on my phone.

    My husband became fluent in Spanish as an adult. He took it in high school, and majored in it in college and then went on get a master’s degree in Medieval Spanish Literature (weird..I know). So, since you homeschool, I think if you start studying Don Quixote now, they should be pretty fluent by high school.

  14. Trish

    As a speech-language pathologist, I LOVE your plan to help your kids to become bi-lingual. Recent research has shown that bi-lingualism has benefits for your brain above and beyond the obvious benefit of knowing more than one language (see http://www.nih.gov/researchmatters/may2012/05072012bilingual.htm). That said, there is nothing like conversing with a native speaker to develop the second language. If you can, seek out friends who speak a different language and who would be willing to spend time conversing with your kids. Prayers for you and your medical/birth-giving adventure!

  15. Laura

    Prayers for you for your next couple of days. And #6 is absolutely hilarious and I think they should try it out a few times and see what happens. God Bless YOU!!!!

  16. Barbara C.

    I don’t text, either. I have had this recurring nightmare (especially when I am feverish) for ten years where I keep trying to dial a phone but I can’t punch the numbers in correctly and have to start over and over. Combine that with the fact that it drives me crazy to not be able to type as fast on my tablet as I do on a regular keyboard, and you have someone who gets slightly panicked and annoyed at the mere thought of having to text.

    • Steph

      Did you know that you can completely turn off texts? (At least you can with ATT). People are always so “shocked!” to hear that my husband and I don’t have text on our phones. To which I always think you can call, email, gchat, find me on social networks, what ELSE do you need?

      We were just tired of paying a dime for every unsolicited text we got from friends and then another dime to send a text back that says “sorry we don’t text.” Life is so much simpler now. 😉

      • Crunchy Con Mommy

        I turned texting off too! I was getting harassing texts from a random number and apparently it was $5/month to block that specific person, or free to turn it off altogether…so I turned it off!

        Also: I win! Hurray! I totally didn’t know it was procrastination week when I forgot to post until like 11:30 at night…

  17. Jenna@CaIllHerHappy

    I can only imagine that your anxiety over the next few days will not be low. But I will be saying prayers, and in my heart, I already know it’s going to be totally fine!!

  18. Steph

    Comment 2 from Steph: Re bilingualism, my husband was raised in a family with no native English speakers (in another country obviously), didn’t go to an immersion program, and did not live in a country that spoke English and he was completely fluent in English by his teen years. So, yes, it is possible. This is the man who speaks 4 languages fluently, so maybe he’s just a freak of nature? 🙂

  19. Kathleen Basi

    #6 is hilarious! And I have to campaign for a flirtation with the “random” order on the linkup, too. 🙂

    Your craptastica has me shaking my head several times a day, I’ll have you know…

  20. Barbara MacLellan

    So much to pray for–Jennifer you are a trooper!In an hour or so I will be at Adoration praying for you and the baby. May Dear Jesus and Mary solve all these problems for you and work through the doctors.

  21. Lisa

    Wow, Jen, that situation is all kinds of crazy! Praying everything goes smoothly and works out the best way possible.

  22. Lisa Schmidt

    If we were texting buddies, my text to you would look like this:

    God luv u! 🙂

    Today’s Divine Mercy chaplet offered for you and other expectant mamas. Here’s to a shower of grace of great mercy.

  23. Michelle

    Jen, you have my empathy on Take number 1. Years ago, my young son, who has a physical disability, was scheduled for spine surgery. Big deal. Big lead up. Multiple doctor appointments beforehand. I am very rigid in that once I embark on a path, I do not deviate. Mentally I was committed. I got a call the day before the surgery telling me it was cancelled (to be rescheduled) because of (and you would think I could remember this but I can’t!). I completely fell apart sobbing uncontrollably after I hung up the phone. My four children were all in the basement playing and they must have deduced what was happening. The basement door was closed and as I gathered myself together I saw a note being slipped under the door. “Mommy, can we please have a LOTR (Lord of the Rings) Marathon? Pretty please?” We proceeded to have a two day ridiculous watch all three movies with all the extras marathon. It was wonderful and cheered me up immediately. And the surgery happened later and all was well.

    I hope your doctors are able to solve these logistical issues and God bless you.

  24. Rakhi

    I will be praying for you re: #1! You are so calm – I’d be a basketcase! I agree with the texting – I’m forever forgetting to respond if I don’t do it right away. A “mark as unread” would be AWESOME!

    I would love to know about the language development as well. I’d love my children to be fluent in a couple languages, Italian specifically. We don’t speak it, so that would be hard, I am guessing.

    #7 cracks me up! I think they should totally answer the phone that way. Who knows how many people might be led back to the Church! 😉

    Praying, praying, praying for you and baby!

  25. Dwija {House Unseen}

    That food looks and sounds incredible. And I am super impressed with any mothers of any children who manage to read any books, food or otherwise. I bow to your time management skillz!

  26. GeekLady

    I actually just started David (and myself) on Earworms rapid Spanish today, and he seems to enjoy it so far. My husband is bilingual, but I’ve been trying for years and can’t seem to get over the think, then translate into Spanish mental hump.

    It would make my inlaws so happy for David to learn Spanish, and I agree, he ought to learn it. Nuts, there are whole chunks of the family that don’t speak anything but Spanish. But my aggravating child? He wants to learn Italian.

    We’ve compromised with, do a good job learning Spanish, and you can learn Italian next. He’s four. He’ll have forgotten by the time we finish Spanish and I’ll be off the hook!

  27. Marie

    re: #5
    I have a friend whose husband only spoke his native language to the kids. She studied it too. The grandparents only understood/spoke the native language. The kids have a decent receptive vocabulary but refuse to speak or write it. They want nothing to do with that part of their heritage. I expect they’ll regret that decision in their thirties or forties and whine at their parents for not forcing them, but the parents persisted in trying for years in face of their resistance.
    re #7
    Perhaps they added the feature just for you. You and George Takei – the power to move the internet.

  28. Chantal

    An EASY , LAZY way to develop understanding of Spanish in North America is buy the Dora/Diego movies and put them in Spanish. The learning words are English and the way the episode is set up with all the repetition you developed an understanding very quickly. Tell your kids that the DVD doesn’t come in English. 🙂 After watching Dora, try the other kids programs.

    My children are fluently trilingual (French, English, Spanish).

    I presently run a dayhome and all children attending speak French even thought the parents speak English. (The children started at different ages 1,2,3,4,5.) Watching Dora in French is what greatly helped the children with understanding and motivation. I live in Alberta, Canada.

  29. Chantal

    Language is strongly linked to our habit of association. If I am used to seeing a friend with whom I only speak French, when I SEE that person, my mind switches to French. It feels odd for me to speak to that person in English even if we both speak it.

  30. Cynthia

    Remembering you in prayer for your surgery! All will be well!

  31. Kris

    We have a ton of friends who are native spanish speakers and they REALLY struggle with the kids. Most can speak or understand (at least a little), but they don’t do it unless prompted once they are past the age of 5 or 6. All our friends have said that once the kids go to school and are speaking English all day, every day, it becomes increasingly difficult. One suggestion I would make is to have someone that comes to your house regularly that will only speak Spanish to the kids. My sister has a nanny for her twins and the nanny only speaks spanish, so the twins are learning that way (they are 18 months old currently). I have another friend who is French and all her kids are fluent, but only because the grandparents don’t speak any English and she sends the kids there every summer, where they are immersed. Unfortunately, what this all means is that it’s very hard to raise bilingual children in a primarily English speaking environment unless you have someone who can “immerse” them in Spanish on a regular basis. Praying for you and baby!!

  32. Kristy

    So sorry to hear of your analysis paralysis when it comes to texting. I say, don’t think too hard, just jump in and do it. If it means that you respond in paragraphs instead of phrases, then make sure you have unlimited texting.

    Re: Spanish, we’ve been using Homeschoolspanishacademy.com where the kids (starting as young as early elementary) Skype with a native speaker for 1-2-3 times a week (as much as you can afford). We’ve been pleased with it. Another option is to find a local Spanish-speaking college student to earn some spending money by coming to your house to tutor. I recommend at least twice/week.

    Looking forward to hearing about a healthy delivery, and the end to some health woes — you’ve had quite a Lent!

  33. Considerer

    Many thanks for the procrastinator favour – I’m in with a chance of not being overlooked down at the bottom of the list this week. Hope surgery (if it happens) goes well (and painlessly).

    Re: your texting issue, if you have a phone with camera capability, you could send a picture of your face (showing whatever you want) in response to something as banal as ‘How are you doing?’

  34. Fran L.

    @susan yes, we don’t speak Spanish! I’m sure you meant think too! 😉

  35. Becky

    I have been sick all day. Not poke metal things in my neck sick, but couldn’t drink my coffee or read at all due to dizziness and nausea sick. I thought I can offer this up for jen today while she is so much worse off and at least while I can’t read I am not missing conversion diary today, since she can’t write while she is in surgery. I finally feel a little better and thought I would just see if you had posted a little something like done! So you have some offerings in your spiritual bank. And I will never again trust you not to write just because you are scheduled for scary surgery.

  36. Lisa

    Wow – I haven’t followed you recently and kept up with you pregnancy and medical issues. All Incan say is God Speed and I will pray for you and your family. We’ll think about bilingual for your kids when we know all is well with you and new baby.

  37. Maryellen Jones

    Just want to say that I remember you every day during Rosary and Divine Mercy chaplet, lifting up all your medical issues, asking God to bless you and your family in every way.

    I’ve been lurking for quite awhile, and felt the need to tell you that I think you are one awesome person.

  38. Lisa

    #6 is totally *snort* worthy! Totally missed opportunity! Blessings to you as you undergo needle therapy!

  39. Ashley Anderson @ The Narrative Heiress

    I prefer the grace and humor with which you address your challenges to the melodrama with which I handle mine. I was glad to see you tweeting today–made it out alive! Also, can’t believe you are so close to having this baby. I was so focused on the epic blood-clotting issues that I overlooked the tiny detail of NEW BABY!

  40. Kelly M.

    For a short time, I was #1 and it was a great feeling. Thank you.

  41. drustee

    Jen, did you say earlier in the year that your patron saint was St Michael the Archangel? With all that’s going on i can see why you’d need his special protection.

    Will keep praying for you.

  42. John Henry

    Re: #5: Those are the only ways I know of. Your family should move to the San Francisco area where there are no scorpions but lots of immersion schools.

  43. Elena

    Hope all went smoothly Jen with your procedure.

    I too agonize over texts and e-mails! Facebook- not so much.

  44. Elizabeth

    7 Quick Takes about…anything?…or something special? : )

  45. Chris

    I started taking Spanish I at age 15 in the 10th grade, and I remember transliterating “¿Cómo estás?” in some vague form because I had no idea what the teacher was saying. In other words, I knew nothing. Today, I am what is referred to as a “near native speaker” of Spanish. My academic Spanish is better than that of most native speakers, and I freak people out from time to time because I sound like I had been raised in Mexico City. What I did, starting out as soon as I could memorize the spellings of a few Spanish words was I would sign them to myself using the fingerspelling alphabet. The sheer repetition helped me memorize the initial words. After a year or two, I got into the habit of translating English conversations in my head while spelling out the Spanish words with my hand using the fingerspelling alphabet. Again, more repetition. Really, a lot of repetition. Eventually, I got a job as a cook and started taking Spanish classes in college. I would eventually major in Modern Languages and Literature with a focus on Spanish literature. After a couple of years of college, I took 3 months of Spanish classes at a language school, in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, and then studied for three semesters in Mexico City, where I met the woman who would be my wife and married her. When I tell the story, everyone thinks that my Spanish became good because I lived for so long in Mexico and married a Mexican woman, but the fact is my Spanish was good before I ever left the U.S. In Mexico, my accent simply became Mexican, and my vocabulary greatly expanded.

    On that note, the absolute best way to improve your language skills is to read in that language using two different approaches. The first is to read slowly, looking up words you do not know in a dictionary. The second is to read quickly without the dictionary, trying your best to figure out words from context. Either of these requires a bit of grammatical skill, but given the proper level of book, you can begin using both approaches early in language study. The key is to understand that there is a time and place for understanding everything with precision – that is why you use a dictionary in one approach – as well as a time and place for ignoring precision. The two together, engaged at separate times will help you greatly expand your vocabulary.

    And a point of caution. Don’t fret about pronunciation. I mean ignore it if at all possible. You do need to study how words are pronounced, but focus on that only when you actually engage in that sort of study. At all other times, whether reading aloud or engaging in conversation with someone, try your best to ignore how strange you think you sound. The fact is no one cares that you sound strange. Everyone is, in fact, beaming that you are trying your best to learn. And fear of mispronunciation is, in my experience, the greatest impediment to actually learning a foreign language. The worst part is that there is no logical reason for this fear. It is a purely emotional response to how we perceive our own incompetence (as we think it to be). No one else sees incompetence. They only see someone who is trying hard.

    There does seem to be a common thread throughout all the suggestions. The first is repeat, repeat, repeat, and then repeat some more! Whether by watching telenovelas or fingerspelling Spanish words, the effect is to get Spanish coursing through your brain in a way that lets you remember. The second is practice, practice, practice. All that repetition will be reinforced even further if you ignore how badly you think you are speaking or listening or reading or writing, and simply set yourself to the task every day. To that, I would add read, read, read! Get some children’s books in Spanish. When you and your kids have mastered those, move on. And apply the slow-plus-dictionary and fast-sans-dictionary approaches to your reading at different times. You really need both to learn the language.

    I guess the final recommendation would be to have your kids get a restaurant job when they get older. A bit of immersion is readily available in Austin (I’m in Houston), so you might as well go after it.

  46. Jennifer

    My husband became fluent in German as a teenager/college student. Took it in high school, participated in a summer exchange program (one year his family had a German exchange student for several weeks, the next year, my husband went to Germany), etc. In college, he did a year abroad in Germany, which really solidified his fluency.

    When we had kids, he wanted to speak German to them. He attempted to do so with our first, but even at a young age she wanted nothing to do with it…”Papa! Speak English!” She does know some basic vocabulary and grammar, but at 10 has not become fluent. We regret that we did not persist in my husband speaking German to her, and now so does she. 🙁

    So when we had our second, my husband did persist. Our four-year-old understands everything he says, but mostly responds in English. (She also believes she knows Spanish, because of watching Dora and having a bilingual preschool friend. Apparently being able to count to 10 in another language means you know it 😉 ) I’m pretty sure my older one also understands most of what my husband says, so she continues to get exposure. She now is interested in learning more, so we’re looking into getting her some lessons or going to a language camp offered by the school district. We are fortunate to live in a school district that is ramping up its language options at the elementary level, and we will be trying to get our youngest into the German immersion program when she hits first grade (its a lottery to get in, and a long waiting list).

    Jennifer, you didn’t say if you or your husband speaks Spanish, but if either of you do to any extent, using it more at home would be the place to start. Or, if not, learning it together with your kids could be helpful. I’ve been studying German on and off for years, but it delights my little one to no end that she’s better in German than I am. 🙂 If you’re all learning it together, you can do things like designate a day or a meal as “Spanish day” when you only speak in Spanish. A language teacher I had in college said that’s what her family did.

    Also, I agree with those above that TV in the target language is invaluable. My husband has been buying children’s movies in German, which has helped a lot…our copy of Tangled is in German and English, for example (bought from Amazon.de, and will only play on a certain player that will play that region coding. Finding Spanish movies/TV would be much less complicated, I’m sure).

    As in our experience, what you might find is that some of your kids will really get into it and some won’t be so enthusiastic. You may also find that one or more will want to switch to a different language as they get older (or just add on another if they’re already proficient in Spanish). When we lived in Germany, I had a conversation with my German cleaning lady about how she tried to learn French for years as a teenager and hated it. But when she switched to English, she just seemed to have an affinity for it and learned it easily. I found it intriguing that perhaps some people might be drawn to different foreign languages through some quirk in their personalities or how they think.

  47. Ethan

    How did you know the wine was good?! Aren’t you pregnant?! Eek!

    Best of luck with all this medical business. God bless!

  48. Carolyn@4life4life

    Realistically speaking, unless you have your kids in a full time immersion program, they will not be fully bilingual. Given some classes, they will gain the intelligence of detecting another language and a better understanding of their own language. I studied French from middle school, through high school, and it was my major in college. Since I graduated, I’ve not spoken the language because I’ve not been in interaction with any french speaking people, not kept up with reading, culture, etc… While I know the language, I know much has been lost to memory.
    So, practically, it won’t hurt to educate your kids in introductory levels, but unless you’re dedicated to full immersion, they’re not going to be fully bilingual.

  49. Mary @ Parenthood

    I could have written your language query two years ago, except substitute French for Spanish.

    I’m not sure how good your Spanish is but my husband is a product of Canada’s late immersion system and I grew up in a French speaking country. At one point I was slightly more comfortable speaking French than English. Neither of us have a particular affinity for language (trust me, that helps!) and neither of us had occasion to speak French regularly for about a decade. Now we have francophone clients and have to. My French came back quickly (but I would not pass as a native anymore). My husband had significantly more difficulty. It’s anecdotal, but the research I’ve read suggests that earlier exposure helps ingrain the language in your brain. Learning the language isn’t enough – you have to have opportunity to use it. Ideally this would be outside the context of your family.

    We’re about to stick my child into a French language kindergarten because I have concluded that to become truly bilingual there is no substitute to being surrounded by native speakers.

    But my daughter has developed pretty good comprehension and is starting to speak with the following strategies:
    1) books and videos. There is no question that TV helps – my daughter is basically only allowed TV if it’s in French. Not all programs are created equal though. Our school board was helpful in suggesting programs. Also native speakers can tell you what they like for their kids.
    2) we try to eat a meal a day in French. Everyone has to speak in that language for that meal. If something is said in English, we repeat in French and get our daughter to repeat it. Let’s say she wants the milk at breakfast. She doesn’t get it until she asks in French. If you aren’t bilingual, using the second language can feel unnatural and exhausting. Picking a specific activity to do in that language as a family really helped us.
    3) We found a French language playgroup. Any activity in your language would be helpful. I like the idea of a Spanish mass (even better if they have a Spanish Sunday school!). For activities like swimming class, we always consider picking the version offered in French first (that might not be an option for you, I realize!)
    4) Music & radio. Listen in your target language.
    5) Set a target. I’ve heard bilingualism is possible with only an hour a day in the second language. I find it easier to expose my child to more than that if I’m consciously paying attention to how much French she’s exposed to in a given day. Otherwise it tends to become an afterthought in between all the other stuff going on.

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