About La Mother Tongue

La Mother Tongue is my medium to share the joys and challenges of being a new parent as well as to share how we make a conscious effort in our daily life to bring baby up bilingual.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Banano, Banana, Guineo, Plátano

One of the things I love about languages is that different regions within a same-language-speaking area often use different words for the same object. It fascinates me and in my humble two languages, I try to learn the variety as much as I can. In addition to the fascination aspect, I think that it is culturally important to be linguistically savvy. I think it is crucial to KNOW and UNDERSTAND that other people may do things differently from you and that doesn’t make them wrong, just DIFFERENT, and this includes the use of words. Tolerance will get you far in life. So I try to incorporate this as much as possible with Sofía. We have a choice in our household. We could easily unify our Peruvian and Colombian vocabulary so that Sofía is hearing the SAME words used for objects, but I think it would be a disservice to her to do so. I think she should have the opportunity to build her vocabulary and her cultural skills a la vez. I heard someone say once that this would confuse her and of course I snottily blew it off. The brain is an amazing tool and she will never be confused because I use the word “mico” and my husband uses the word “mono” for monkey. What I didn’t anticipate was that she would pick up on the differences and learn them so quickly. My husband uses two different words interchangeably for pig (chancho and cerdo). I’m not even sure if he realizes that he switches back and forth between the two. I only use the word "cerdo" which means that her exposure to “chancho” is very small. So imagine my surprise when he and Sofía were reading a book and he asked her to point out the “chancho” and she without hesitation located the “chancho”. This was an activity that I had also done with her earlier that day using “cerdo”. Once again, real life experience reinforces that we teach by example!

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