While I was pregnant, I collected picture books and music in Spanish. I dreamt of my bilingual child. Of course he’d speak Spanish. His dad speaks Spanish as his first language and I speak Spanish reasonably well. How hard could it be? For the first six months our son was a captive audience, but of course he couldn’t walk or crawl away. Since he’s been mobile, it’s been another story. The only things that seem to keep him interested in Spanish are singing songs, memorama (of any sort), puzzles and physical games. I’ve made a song for every activity we do, “Vamos a escuela! Vamos a escuela!” and “¿Dónde está su zapato??!” are a couple of favorites. We’ve done memorama with monsters, football teams, and common household items. We do bilingual puzzles, go to bilingual storytime every week at the library, and play hide and go seek in Spanish. So it breaks my heart when he gets to talk to his family in Mexico via Skype and he’s limited to hola, te amo, and singing Buenos días.
I think (cross your fingers), I’ve finally found a motivator that will work: A point system. I drew a thermometer in festive “Mexican” colors with a goal of 100 points at the top. I explained that for each Spanish activity he did, he’d earn 5 points. Once he earned 100 points he could choose from several rewards. Well, he filled that first chart in four days and my husband and I found ourselves grinning and bearing it at Chuck E. Cheese the next Friday. I was grinning. My husband was bearing it.
His second goal is for 200 points (though he reports he’s aiming for 1000) and I’ve reduced the goals a bit. We’ll go broke if he keeps up this pace. How do you say bribery in Spanish?