tugboat yarning

Una Promesa – A Promise

Una Promesa – A Promise

View of Madrid skyline from the neighborhood where I lived in Spain, 2006

When I was debating whether I should stay home full-time or return to work, I mentioned my desire for Quincy to grow up knowing Spanish.  In order to explain what my promise to Quincy will be, I have to tell you a little bit about my history with the language and why it is so important to me.
For starters, I took my first Spanish class my Freshman year of high school, and I wasn’t happy about it.  I had wanted to take French, but it wasn’t offered at my school.  What was a girl to do?  French was romantic, fancy, elegant, sophisticated… and speaking French would therefore make me romantic, fancy, elegant, and sophisticated.  I decided to go with Spanish because it was practical – West Michigan has a large population of Spanish speakers – and maybe, I thought, it would come in handy.
I found out that I loved Spanish class (apart from homework, tests, and the tedious book work required to learn a language), because the sounds, the music, the variety of cultures, accents… it all fascinated me.  After graduating high school with four years of Spanish under my belt, I enrolled at Grand Valley State University, with a major in Spanish and minor in Elementary Education (the latter I later dropped).  I was able to take the CLEP test for Spanish and began courses at the 300-level my Freshman year at GVSU.

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.

Some of my GVSU Friends
Stacy, Stefanie, Maggie & Sharlynn
During my Junior year at GVSU, I had the opportunity to study abroad for a semester in Spain. Brad’s family had hosted a student from Spain for a number of visits, and so I was able to stay with her family just outside the city of Madrid (the took photo in this post is the view of Madrid from where I lived).  
I learned the language (not just out of a book, but in real life situations, too), ate delicious food, traveled around the country, took courses at the local university as well as through my American program, and met some really great people.
Segovia, Spain

Córdoba, Spain
Cochinillo – Roast Suckling Pig
Galicia, Spain
Langostinos (Shrimp), Percebes (I guess they’re called “Goose Barnacles”?)
Caracoles (Snails), & Jamón (Ham)
Toledo, Spain

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…

Now as the mother of a six month old, I am looking forward to seeing the adventures of which Quincy will partake.  My job, and that of the community of family and friends around him, is to nurture him in every way possible, teaching him what we can from the knowledge we have gained, while also teaching him a sense of curiosity and adventure – a desire to learn more.

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!

¡Buena suerte!

~M

Comment Here!