|Ivanna and I back in 2009|
|She is 14 Today!|
Talking to her a few weeks back, I asked her about her classes and how she felt about high-school. Off course, the conversation took place in Spanish and was a very pleasant one…but I had to bring up (yet again) the fact that it was such as struggle for her to want to continue to perfect her Spanish skills – both orally and in writing.
She was born in Ecuador and attended the first few years of schooling there as well. So, her Spanish was pretty decent. When my sister and her family moved to the United States, I remember asking my sister about Ivanna’s Spanish and what she was going to do to keep it ‘alive.’ She sounded confident because Ivanna’s foundational skills were already there. At the time, I was living in Florida and I would visit them at least once a year.
Every visit, I clearly remember, was fun and entertaining as I loved spending time with them. Yet every visit was marked by the constant arguments between Ivanna and Jennifer (my sister). My sister would speak to Ivanna in Spanish, Ivanna would then reply in English. My sister would tell her that she was not going to reply to her unless Ivanna would answer in Spanish. My sister would then again speak in Spanish, Ivanna would say some words – switch between English and Spanish, and so on. It was TORTURE!
Off course, I had to step in an offer the much appreciated ‘advise’ (well…not really wanted nor appreciated). I would tell my sister that she had to be stricter, that she had to set her foot down and NOT give in. Jennifer was a teacher too, so she could handle it right? Well, sort off.
Years passed, and my visits continued (their discussions did not deter me from coming back). Threats, arguments, punishment, you name it….my sister had tried it all.
Last week I had the opportunity to spend some really great quality time with my sister (oh! I moved to California in 2009). Jennifer was sharing how proud she was of Ivanna because she would be taking an advanced Spanish class in high-school. As a matter of fact, in the past year, Ivanna’s interest for perfecting her Spanish had increased according to my sister. Ivanna would ask more questions about the language – especially writing since she knew that orally she could communicate well, but lacked writing fluency (she hates ’tildes’).
Further in our discussion, I mentioned to my sister that this time Ivanna was not just ‘told’ how important it was to learn another language – this time she KNEW first hand that the better she would perform in her Spanish placement test for high-school the more advanced the class she would be able to take. We talked about motivation and how it can re-shape our previous beliefs. When I told my sister that it was pretty traumatic to come for vacation and see them in a heated argument because of the language, she laughed and told me that she did what had to be done.
While I am not a parent, I wonder what parents have to do or have done to ensure their children become fluent in more than one language. When there there is not any ‘real’ motivation unless they are at an age where they understand the ‘gift’ of speaking more than one, what had/can be done?
I am happy my sister’s story has a very happy ending – Ivanna is now not only proud but also very interested in continuing learning Spanish. Which bring me to the question: What am I going to do to ensure my child (once I have one) learns Spanish? Is there a silver bullet?
|Ivanna, My Sister, and I|