Cow Webs and Pig Pockets (on being bilingual)

A tiny me in one of the many parades my school in Mexico participated in.

One of the questions I get asked most by family and friends is if I plan on raising Jacob speaking Spanish. My parents were born in Sonora, Mexico, my sister was born there, and 90% of my very very large family lives there. Though I was born in Los Angeles, my mom moved us back to Mexico when I was still a baby. My first memories take place in Mexico, some days my heart and stomach long for Mexico, and my first language is Spanish. I very clearly remember moving back to the United States and learning English from square one. My parents wrote out the alphabet in Spanish phonetics ("A" = ey, "B"= bi, etc), and I was thrown into a mostly English speaking school. Since I was still very young, I picked up this second language quickly and have outgrown any accent I may have once had. I am still completely fluent in Spanish, mostly thanks to my mom who has always insisted I speak Spanish to her, though she is fluent in English. There are some words and phrases I struggle with in Spanish, especially if I'm put on the spot or too excited to think straight.

Every now and again, I say things in English that are completely wrong and Josh teases me that he should write me a book with common English sayings and jokes. Up until about a year ago, I thought that if you didn't clean your home you would find coW webs, and if you didn't watch your back, you might get piG pocketed! Oh, and most of the movies people my age grew up with? I either watched them dubbed in Spanish or watched and understood absolutely nothing. My nostalgia is El Chavo del Ocho, Muchchitas, and Sabado Gigante. There's comfort in hearing Joan Sebastian or Los Tigres del Norte playing, and some days I want nothing more than a duro with chamoy on top.

When Jacob started speaking, we worked a lot on Spanish words, but that's slowed down a bit. He is delayed in some of his speech, so we are focusing on English first, so he can at least be understood in one language soon. About a third of his words are in Spanish already, my mom speaks mostly Spanish to him, and it's neat to see how he also understands the English word for the same thing.

I will probably always get things mixed up a bit, and may speak in Spanglish most of the time, but I really hope to raise Jacob speaking both English and Spanish, and celebrating his Mexican heritage. I, of course, want him to have every opportunity that being bilingual can open up for him, but I also want him to grow up with a deep connection to his extended family. There were some cultural clashes that my mom and I went through when I was growing up, but I'm glad to have a close tie to my family and their traditions. We have over 100 family members still in Mexico, most of them in the same city. I can't wait for him to experience what it's like to hang out at his grandmas' houses, have a million cousins to joke and run around with, and walk to the toritlleria and roll up a fresh tortilla that just came off the conveyor belt.


  1. As a child who has no connection to her Hispanic heritage I really appreciate the effort you're making on Jacob's behalf. I know he will appreciate it too.

  2. hi annie, don't forget that bilungual children often speak much later. they are having to compute more after all! so often parents worry that their children's speech is delayed when it just takes a little longer to get off the ground! often parents then give up and there is no need to do so! keep going with both. he'll be just fine and will be so grateful to you in the long run with such a gift of two such important languages! nancy x

  3. I have met some kids who know up to 4 languages and it is amazing!!! I only know one (I'm currently learning Hindi though) and wish that I knew of many. I think it is great that you are bilingual! I can understand how you would want to focus on one language at a time since Jacob is still in development with one language as it is. He'll pick it up in no time though! My boys want to learn Spanish and I hope they'll learn it (one of my brothers is fluent in it and gives them pointers here and there). For now they are picking up on Hindi too pretty fast (we're going to be missionaries in India in about three years and are in training).