View of Madrid skyline from the neighborhood where I lived in Spain, 2006
The courses were difficult, taught only in Spanish, and the professors came from a variety of backgrounds, but I greatly enjoyed each class (well, mostly – grammar and I never really became good friends). In my classes, I met some really great girls who shared a love of language, and I learned a great deal from them.
|Cochinillo – Roast Suckling Pig|
|Langostinos (Shrimp), Percebes (I guess they’re called “Goose Barnacles”?)
Caracoles (Snails), & Jamón (Ham)
|Celebrating our last night in Spain with friends!
Emily, Maggie & Brit
|Frauke & Maggie – Fireworks for El Día de San Isidro|
Brad and I even got engaged in Spain while he came for a visit. (Romantic, right?! I thought so!)
|At my program building, sharing the news with friends!|
|El Parque del Retiro, Madrid|
|Real Madrid Soccer Stadium|
My time in Spain was such a great adventure – I learned about another culture, language, and country; I also learned a great deal about myself.
Okay, so enough reminiscing…
I spent eight academic years learning another language (including the Bachelor’s Degree I earned at GVSU) and I still struggle with components of the language. Grammar makes my skin crawl, I’ve lost a ton of vocabulary over the years, and I blush from time to time when speaking the language. Why should Quincy spend so much of his time learning a language, as I did, when it can be incorporated in his daily routine? I’m not saying I’m the perfect teacher, or that my grammar and vocabulary will be that of a native speaker, but even him knowing fruits and vegetables or basic conversation in Spanish will be a success in my book.
So here is what I have decided to do:
READ in Spanish to Quincy. I budgeted one hundred dollars to purchase books in Spanish to read to Quincy and also to use to teach myself new vocabulary. I probably could have gotten a slightly better deal ordering books online, but I went to the local Barnes & Noble so I could page through the books and see which ones would be good to have in the house. I tried to get a variety of books: some with nursery rhymes and songs, others filled with pictures of everyday vocabulary, a few biblical books to encourage his faith in another language, and some familiar childhood books that I can remember reading (in English) with my parents.
One hundred dollars may seem like a lot, but I consider these books a great investment and should last for a while. This way, we have a variety of books to read instead of cycling through the same three books several times a day. A handful of the books have several stories (one has 365 stories and nursery rhymes!) so we will have different tales to read through as he grows!
SPEAK with Quincy in Spanish. In talking about this promise with Brad, we decided that I would speak strictly in Spanish with Quincy when others aren’t around. Not that I want to make Quincy timid about speaking around others, but I want him to to be aware that speaking a language around others that do not understand could give them a feeling of alienation. When Brad is around, English will be the primary language, but once it’s just me and Quincy (or with other Spanish speakers), it’ll just be Spanish. This obviously means while we play at home, but also out and about at the grocery store, running other errands, going for walks, etc.
This also means I had to make a decision about my accent. From living in Spain, I have a rather (strong) Spanish accent, complete with the “Spanish lisp” (read more about ceceo and seseo here). I’ve always held on strongly to my accent, since it shows where my language skills were nurtured and enhanced. To be honest, it also helped distinguish certain words from others. The pronunciation of hacer and a ser is very different with a Spanish accent, but is less distinguishable in a Latin American accent. For those of you unfamiliar with the typical Spanish accent (I should note that there are a variety of accents besides the one I am familiar with, depending on the region of Spain), the word “gracias” is pronounced like “graTHiaS” (the “TH” here sounds like the same letter combination found at the end of the English word “with”). The letter S still has the same sound you would use in English, but all words with Z’s and soft C’s (ce- and ci-) are presented with the “TH” sound.
Our community has a very large hispanic population (about 22% of the total population), but does not have strong ties to Spain. Most hispanics in the area are from Mexico (16.7% of the total population), while others are from Puerto Rico or Cuba (read more statistics here). It would make more sense to have an accent that matched better with the local speakers, so I am making the adjustment to a more commonly recognized accent in my area.
SEEK out cultural events, playgroups and music that encourages cultural diversity. This doesn’t solely have to be related to Spanish or the local hispanic community. I have a very dear friend in Germany (we met in Spain, actually) that we have kept in contact with and have visited each other over the years and plan on keeping up the tradition of crossing the ocean to hang out.
|Brad, Maggie, Frauke & Marcel – Chicago 2007|
|Frauke & Maggie – Germany 2010|
|Michigan – Summer 2011
Stacey, Maggie, Brad, Doug, Sheryl, Marcel & Frauke
Beyond the international friends that Brad and I have, I also want to expose Quincy to new music, food, and cool festivals. This may be easier said than done, but I’ll see what I can find! (Feel free to leave comments about recommendations of food, music, cultural events or playgroups you may know of!) We obviously have the local tradition of Tulip Time, but we also established a tradition of attending the Garlic Festival when we lived out East. We plan on going again this year!
|Friends at Garlic Festival 2010
Chelsea, Christian, Monica, Jessica, Marcus, Maggie & Brad
WORK hard. This will be a big challenge to relearn the vocabulary I have lost, study new vocabulary that we encounter along the way, and not give up when it gets a little tough. For me, this means looking up words that I don’t know, making an effort to always speak in Spanish, and haul out my old grammar book to brush up on the rules.
|My new companion|
All of these things I promise to do with and for Quincy so that he can grow up knowing more about the cultures and people around him, and have a natural curiosity to seek out new people, food, cultures… all things that will help him understand our worldly community more fully.
Special thanks to my Facebook friends that grew up in a multi-cultural home or have encouraged their own children to grow up speaking another language. Your input and advice was really great to hear and use as I work on this promise to Quincy. Feel free to leave comments below for any further advice, questions, resources, or tips – whether you are multi-lingual or just interested!
Got any promises you are working on in your life? Share in the comments!