Author Archives: suzannemateus

About suzannemateus

I write about my bilingual life on my blog, Interpretations of a Bilingual Life: http://suzannemateus.com/ I am also a monthly contributor for http://www.spanglishbaby.com/ where I write about my attempt to raise a trilingual baby. I have written (and am interested in continuing to do so) for other blogs focusing on my experiences about nursing my baby and about having an amazing intervention-free and med-free birth.

My Disclaimer

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Though my explorations of bicultural/bilingual experiences may allude to, or state quite blatantly, general perceptions about “Latinos” I by no means intend to offend anyone reading my blog. In addition, I consider my comments mere attempts to better understand why we communicate or hold certain ideals about one another. My main objective is to gain a better understanding, both personally and professionally, about my bilingual and bicultural experiences as I mentioned in the category titled, “About my blog”

This disclaimer was originally published in 2007.

*This applies to any other social media (e.g., Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) venue I use to express my experiences, perspectives, & observations.

Why My Daughters Doctors Must Speak Spanish!

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The U.S. does not have an official language, yet English certainly plays a vital role! I would be lying if I thought it wasn’t a necessary part of an individuals’ linguistic repertoire in order to succeed in this country. That being said, children at an early age pick up on the high status English carries in their everyday interactions.

My nena, for example, already pegs anyone outside her home as “English-speaking.” I have very few friends and family that, in my nenas eyes, are Spanish speakers or bilingual (even though most of my friends are bilingual) because of the status English plays in her interactions with them. For these simple reasons alone I make it a point to attempt to increase the status of Spanish in our everyday lives.

One very strategic move I have made is to make sure all of her doctor visits are with Spanish-speaking, hence bilingual, practitioners. I am even willing to drive out of my way to make sure she see’s a bilingual doctor. In fact, I prefer for them to be female as well. I guess you can see my motives are two-fold. I want her to have role models she can identify with as she develops her identity as a bilingual Latina.

Recently we took her to her first dental appoint. It was important for me to find a Spanish speaking pediatric dentist because we had been talking about what dentists do entirely in Spanish and I wanted my daughter to make the connections we had talked about at home once she was seated in front of her actual dental practitioner. I called at least four different pediatric dental offices and solicited information from my friends on facebook to find a doctor closer our home.

Just like searching for the ideal bilingual school environment, I learned that there are other aspects of choosing the right doctor for my daughter. These aspects include considering whether or not the staff is kid-friendly and if the office had a ambience that made children feel comfortable. Well, all in all, we were lucky to find Texas Tooth Fairies Pediatric Dentistry. Dr. Singletary, a Venezuela native, and her staff were amazing. Not only did my nena get her teeth cleaned without a problem she actually LOVED the experience, as did I, because it was mostly in Spanish.

What are some strategic moves you have made to increase the status of Spanish in your everyday interactions?

My Toddler’s Bilingual Development

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I have been recording (mostly on Facebook) my daughters’ bilingual development. The following conversation took place when she was 1 year and 11 months old.

Me: Sabrina, ven a comer los frijoles.
Sabrina: No, jole!
Me: Ven aquí.
Sabrina: No ven
Me: Si
Sabrina No, si!

As you can see  her words are “fragmented” and she echoed what I was saying, yet all in Spanish. It has been an amazing journey that not a single person could have described to me prior to deciding to raise my daughter with 2 (at least) languages. I have seen her change from a predominately Spanish speaker at 2 and a 1/2 years old to having a strong command of English within 6 months of being immersed in an English daycare. Today, at 4 years old, it can be difficult to tell which of the 2 languages she speaks “better.” Just the other day the following conversation took place between her and a new friend:

New Friend: Sabrina, por que hablas ingles?
Sabrina: En Austin hablamos espaniol y in Ecuador we speak English!
Me: That’s right, honey. You are bilingual and your friend is becoming bilingual just like you!

In fact, one could argue, based on that single sentence she uttered above, that she has a strong command of both languages because she managed to code-switch while maintaining the grammatical structure of both languages!

When it comes to raising a bilingual child it seems like, as I have said before, there are many trials, joys, and tribulations. Having moved to Ecuador recently we switched to speaking English with Sabrina for the first time in her life! She refused to speak to us in English for about 2 months UNTIL she came home from her first day at a Spanish school. The teachers and classmates were so impressed with her American English that she, what I assume, felt proud. Since that day she speaks mostly in English to us. It was a complete shock to me to see how drastically she switched all due to what her peers thought. Now, as I mentioned, my biggest concern is asking her to switch back to Spanish IF we ever decide to move back to the U.S.

Have your children successfully switched back to the original language you had spoken after moving back to a country of origin?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bilingualism in Ecuador

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Bilingualism is highly valued in Ecuador. There is no doubt about that. That being said, I have been trying to understand how Spanish and English work here.  All of the private schools I have visited promote becoming bilingual. The public schools, from what I have heard, also promote bilingualism, but at a completely different level. Here’s the interesting observation I have made. Rarely, if ever, do I hear locals speaking English. In fact, I sense a level of discomfort interacting in English. It’s as if English is a tool with a certain purpose. The purpose being several ones: travel, business, or to speak with someone from another country.

There is something about Spanish and English that definitely stands out. People here code-switch or it could be a form of language mixing (which I can explain in another post). For example, I was speaking to another parent about sleep training her children when she said, “No fue facil. Tenia los dos mellizas durmiendo en el mismo cuarto o como dicen los gringos, ‘it wasn’t a piece of cake.”

There is English everywhere we go. You will see it as the name of business, like Sweet & Coffee. Though I think it should read: Sweets & Coffee. Which leads me to my next observation. Sometimes the translations are off like a store in the mall advertising: joyas de boda. In English they wrote, marge jewelry. Huge mistake.

All in all, our experience as a bilingual family in Ecuador has been amazing. I look forward to sharing more about those experiences in future posts as well. Our daughter has certainly improved how to associate people with language. She switches between Spanish and English almost flawlessly. I think we are on track in raising a prolific code switcher and someone who is proud to know more than one language. Just the other day she said, “En Austin hablamos espaniol y in Ecuador we speak English!”

My First 30 days in Guayaquil, Ecuador

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If I had a video of the images or words that caught my eye during my first 30 days in a 3rd world country you would see the following:

Brown skinned workers arriving early in the morning to work in the homes of those more privileged…
A new sound of birds chirping…
Rain, rain, rain, and more rain…
Taxi drivers honking here and there looking to make another dollar….
Palm trees and coconuts….
The woman outside the church parking lot asking for something to get her by….
Stores with merchandise double to triple the price compared to the U.S.
Flip flops worn by the empleadas….
Eggs sold in non-refrigerated aisles….
Some of the only items less expensive here includes Chilean and Argentine wine…
Quechua, the language of the indigenous people, is completely devalued by many…..
English, on the other hand, maintains a high level of superiority….
Across the bridge (away from la puntilla) is a completely different world….

(still revising, but wanted to share what I have seen)….

Female Warrior

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I am a female warrior.

I have earned the scars I wear.

Sometimes with shame or embarrassment.

Though they are earning my respect.

A friend once told me, “Women of our age can walk into a room with a different presence than when we were in our 20’s”

I am a female warrior.

These scars I wear came with great passion, pain, emotion….

They represent how I have evolved.

These scars tell a story.

The ones on my legs show the hours I spent on my feet working to pay the bills, to get by, to get an education.

I am female warrior and I am determined to wear my scars with pride.

The ones on my stomach were intimately stretched as a bore my two daughters.

I have scars.

Like Ricardo Arjona sung so beautifully, “No le quite años a su vida
Pongale vida a los años que es mejor”

As I move through my 30’s, leaving the 20’s further and further behind, I am also redefining my sense of what it means to be a woman. A beautiful woman.

Each scar I wear carries with it a story of the journey I’ve made in life.

My hands are worn—they have worked, they have written, they have carried, they have lived.

I am a female warrior.

And I am learning to be proud of my scars.