Thursday, December 9, 2010

What language does your dog speak?

My Son and Our Dog
My dog speaks English; at least he responds to English commands better than Spanish ones.

One day my wife was at the vet with a friend of ours, and she repeated over and over, with absolutely no result "sienta te."  Finally she said, "Simba, sit." The dog sat immediately.

The reason for this is clear; I've always been the dog-lover in the couple, and I was the one who did the little training which our dog had.  He responds to "come" much better than to "ven" and upon the command "go home" runs directly to our door.

My three-year-old, however, disagrees. He has started stringing more words together and distinguishing his English sentences from his Spanish sentences, he has started talking in Spanish to the dog.  One day when I noticed this, and asked him, "Does Simba speak English or Spanish?"

"Spanish," was his immediate and very confident answer.

So I demonstrated to him that the dog responds much better to English.

"No," he replied with unwavering confidence, "Simba speak Spanish.  English, NO."

During this last week, since our second son was born, I noticed the three-year-old also speaks Spanish to the baby.  So, I also asked about the baby's language.  Again, Spanish was the final answer.  I demonstrated that I could speak English to the baby.  That was fine, but the older brother insisted that the baby spoke Spanish, not English.

So, worried about the status of English in my child's world, I asked him if he spoke English or Spanish.

"Both."  At least that was a relief.

I'm going to persist with the dog, however.  Our dog speaks English.  Even the neighbors know that, and have learned a handful of English commands just for him.  Hopefully, I can get my son to acknowledge this at some point.


  1. that's so sweet! I was a nanny to a boy who was raised bilingual and it was so interesting to watch him develop two languages simultaneously.

  2. Your dog looks cute!

  3. I'm reading you and you are like my "opposite" My daughter says all her dolls speak English, NOT SPANISH. but she does speak Spanish.. the only difference I see is.. She says her little brother just doesn't speak. Not English nor Spanish. He just can't yet mom - saying this like explaining some idiot the facts-

    I speak to her in Spanish, but we have an "English hour" to help her with the language for preschool, something her teachers recommended.I think is not useful at all as she already speaks more English than Spanish . She will grow on both though as I kind of find weird to speak in English to my also Mexican husband :) , So far I'm loving your blog! let me keep reading.

  4. Sabrina; thanks! I'm glad you're enjoying the blog. In our case, I'm Canadian, and my wife is Mexican, so it's fairly easy to make the distinction; our speaks English to me, and Spanish to my wife. It's usually the "outside" language that needs the most care, which for us is English since we live in Mexico. But he's also in a bilingual school which helps. For your daughter I'm not sure which would be considered the "other" language since Spanish is her native tongue (learned from you from infancy) but, as you said, she spends more tiem speaking English.

    Personally, if she is doing OK with English at school, I would be careful that she doesn't loose Spanish. Does she speak Spanish to you all the time, or answer you in English? Do they have bilingual schools in California?

    My first language was German; because my older brother had lots of trouble with German pronunciation, my parents stopped insisting on German within the house, so we all lost the language. I learned it again in university, but over the past 10 years, I've gotten rusty. If I were you, I would try hard to keep her actively using both, in a variety of contexts (i.e. not only at home), if possible.

  5. Hi Jacob. She is speaking both, sometimes she just wants to speak in English sometimes in Spanish but I normally just speak Spanish at home unless I notice something wrong in her English Grammar so I just correct her.

    Nop, We do not live in California. I live in the North East of US. Totally the other side and no, the only bilingual school is French-English so I didn't want to confuse her more, plus this side of this Country is expen$ive so private schools are a no no.

    I'm trying for her to keep both languages for 2 reasons. 1, is a great opportunity for her to be bilingual since the beginning and 2nd cultural, I find easier to share the cultural part of Mexico with her in Spanish

    The funny part is now my 2nd kid. He is really little now but he differentiates the languages. He says UP to my daughter and Arriba to me when he wants help to walk. Funny isn't?

  6. That is funny. Kids can pick up the idea really young of which words they need to say to which person.

    Well, coming from Canada, at some point I do want my son to learn French as well. German would be nice too, considering my heritage. If you have a French school nearby, and you can really work on Spanish at home, it might be worth considering 3 languages, especially once you see that English and Spanish are definitely on track.

    I think a lot of kids in Europe do it, and it's amazing how easily all kids learn stuff. I think the only danger is if the family or friends start mixing up the languages - then they will do it too. But otherwise, as you've seen, they can distinguish really easily.