Tag Archives: language

The truth about Raising a Bilingual Kid

The truth about Raising a Bilingual Kid

It’s definitely not a topic we’ve ever shied away from, but it is one we’ve given a lot of thought to. Especially as parents of a bilingualish teenager. See what I did there? It’s a play off of the hit TV show Blackish, in case you’re wondering. What I’m talking about is Raising a Bilingual Kid.

Y’all know I’ve written at length about that topic over the years, haha! So how does one follow up so many blog posts about the same topic? With a video, of course!

That’s what we’re talking about in our latest video from YouTube (we have a channel there, by the way… in case you want to subscribe – we’d greatly appreciate it). Take a look and let us know what your best tips are for raising a fully bilingual or bilingualish child.


¿Te gusta esto? 

Can you do this?

What do you do for a living?

How many of those have you had?

What do you know about them?

¿Cuánto me puedes prestar? 

What did you say?

These are all pretty simple questions, right?  For the most part they are.  Except for those rare occasions when we have something to say that we know we shouldn’t.  Or better yet, when we want to say so much, but have promised ourselves or someone else that we will show restraint.  In those instances, as my jefitos would say, hasta quiere uno que se parta la tierra y se lo trague a uno.  In other words, you feel like you’re between a rock and a hard place… and the person prying, asking 21 questions, seems just as committed to: a) either making you uncomfortable, or b) dragging the truth out of you one way or another.

In those instances Anjelica suggests the following word: ¡Nanais! 

I say Anjelica suggests that word because she was the one that sent it to me in a text message a couple of days ago.  To which I replied “huh?”  She then proceeded to explain that it means nada, nothing, kind of the same thing as shrugging your shoulders and smiling when you are made to feel awkward and don’t know what else to do.  According to tuBabel, that’s precisely what ¡Nanais! means.  A complete and utter negation in one simple solitary word.

So there you go.  Next time you feel like you’re being coerced into saying something you don’t want to say, just shrug your shoulders (or not) and say !Nanais! 

Nanais definition
Balance for Perspective by Rudy (New Routes)

When and Where is it Okay to use “Malas Palabras”?

When and where is it okay to use bad words?
Words in Half by Jenn Sterling

So you guys like cursing.  That’s good.  A mi también me gusta, pero I’m also kind of sensitive about how and when curse words can be used around me.  Growing up we were never allowed to curse in front of my parents… or any other adults for that matter.  Words like “shit” and “hell,” even “stupid,” were frowned upon.  So ni se imaginan when we started picking up more colorful pejoratives from our friends in school how big and bad, not to mention rebellious, we all felt.  Still, the “F” word and the “M-F” words were referred to exactly like that, only by initials.  We wouldn’t dare utter them out loud in front of, or around, our jefitos.

Even today, I still feel weird cursing in front of my parents.

Cuando se me sale uno que otro “chingao,” “cabron,” or “pendejo,” – never at them of course – while we’re talking my mother lets out a little gasp.  “¡Yyyyy!”  And the room goes silent, almost always followed by a little laughter or an uncomfortable silence (depending on the context of the usage).  You see, it’s all about context for us mexicanos.  Por ejemplo, I could say ¡me vale! or me vale and the reactions would be completely different.  Pero bueno, I’m not claiming to be all innocent tampoco.  

When I’m zig-zagging in and out of traffic by myself you should hear the words that come out of my mouth.  ¡Hasta me chiveo yo mismo!  It’s the rest of the time, when I’m not by myself, when I second guess my instinct to use any “bad words.”

Am I a prude about “colorful” language?

The Associcated Press Decides To Drop The “I” Word… Finally!

drop the i word ap drops the i word juanofwords

I guess you could say it’s been a long time coming.  Too long perhaps.  I mean how long have people been asking for respected news organizations and reporters to stop using the “I” word when referring to a human being?  No human being is illegal regardless of their legal status in any country, especially this one.  That’s always been my personal opinion anyway.  And now, the Associated Press has finally come to the same conclusion in their latest updates to the AP Stylebook. They made the official announcement today.

¡Por fin!  ¡Woo-hoo!  ¡Enhorabuena!  It was about time!

Here’s how they explained their decision: “The discussions on this topic have been wide-ranging and include many people from many walks of life. (Earlier, they led us to reject descriptions such as “undocumented,” despite ardent support from some quarters, because it is not precise.  A person may have plenty of documents, just not the ones required for legal residence.)  Those discussions continued even after AP affirmed “illegal immigrant” as the best use…”

The new guidelines for using the word illegal are as follows:

Except in direct quotes essential to the story, use illegal only to refer to an action, not a person: illegal immigration, but not illegal immigrant.  Acceptable variations include living in or entering a country illegally or without legal permission.  Except in direct quotations, do not use the terms illegal alien, an illegal, illegals or undocumented.

There’s definitely still room for improvement, pero bueno it’s better than continuing to call people illegal or illegals. I won’t have to think “Illegal?  ¡Illegal tu ______!” as often any more every time I hear or read the “I” word in a news story.

All other news sources, please follow suit.  Thank you!

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Raising A Bilingual Kid: And Learning Right Alongside Him Every Step Of The Way!

raising a bilingual kid learning alongside them every step of the way capirotada enchiladas language juanofwords

This past weekend we went to Dallas for a few days.  We were there for the Blissdom 2013 national conference, and while it was everything we had expected and a lot more (there were mixed drinks at some of the tabletop booths so ya se imaginan…), what really made the trip extra special was something Edgar said at Anjelica’s aunts’ home.  We were staying with them while we were in Dallas.  One, to not pay for a hotel.  And two, because you already know in Mexican families if you don’t stay with family that’s just as bad as turning your back on us.

So there we were.  It was late on Saturday evening.  We had already come back from the conference and we were exhausted.  One of Anjelica’s aunts was making capirotada – if you’re not familiar it’s very similar to bread pudding – and we were all sitting around the table talking.  Then Edgar started asking questions.

Edgar:  What is that?

Anjelica’s Aunt:  Capirotada.

Edgar:  No, what is that?  What is that ma?

Everyone:  Capirotada. Capirotada mijo.  It’s capirotada.

Edgar:  But how do you say it in English?

Anjelica’s Aunt:  Capirotada.

Edgar:  Yeah, but in English… what is the word for that in English?

Anjelica’s Aunt:  How do you say enchiladas in English?

Edgar:  En-chee-la-ttas.

Anjelica’s Aunt:  Pos hay está, in English you say ca-pee-ro-ta-dah.

I haven’t been able to stop laughing at that exchange.  It reminded me so much about some of the many language barriers of my own that I’ve had over the years.  For the longest I called one of my parent’s friends everything else but her real name of Calletana.  It was such a tender moment that I had to recreate it in the videos below:

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Why All Latinas In Hollywood Should Learn Conversational Spanish

why all latinas in hollywood should learn conversational spanish juanofwords
Eva Longoria for Lay’s.

It wasn’t too long ago that celebrities like Eva Longoria, Christina Aguilera, Jessica Alba, and yes even La Diva Del Bronx Jennifer Lopez could speak only a couple of words of Spanish before staring blankly into space in confusion and resorting back to their more comfortable tongue of English.  They didn’t really speak Spanish and that was okay.  In fact, it still is.  The only notable difference these days is the amount of big time Latina starlets who are making the conscious decision to improve their Spanish.

Jennifer Lopez’s Spanish improved so much she was able to participate in the almost all Spanish-language television show Q’Viva The Chosen last year on Univision.  And these days she’s almost always talking to the Spanish-speaking press in pretty good español.

Eva Longoria meanwhile is the new face of Lay’s potato chips in both English and Spanish.  Her new language skills were such a big deal that Escandalo TV actually dedicated an entire segment to talking about how “all of a sudden Eva Longoria is speaking a lot better espanish!”

Personally, I think they’re on the right track!  Why wouldn’t you want to speak better Spanish if it means you gain access to a whole new demographic of Latinos?  It’s the easiest thing to do to increase your brand and celebrity.  If you can be a star on Telemundo and Univision and in Hollywood, that’s the triple threat right there.  All Latinas in Hollywood should be following suit!

¿Qué crossover ni que nada?  You don’t have to speak perfect Spanish.  Just speak it well enough for us to understand you.

We appreciate the esfuerzo.

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Raising a Bilingual Kid: Schoolyard Crushes!

raising a bilingual kid school yard crushes juanofwords
The Wonder Years.

So the other day Edgar and I were talking. Of all things our conversation ended up turning out to be about girls. He’s right about that same age that I was when all the little boys in my classroom, including myself, first began to discover that not all the girls in our school were prone to severe cases of the cooties. Okay, so to be completely honest there was just one little girl at McCook Elementary that seemed to have miraculously avoided contracting that hideous affliction that made us all but allergic to the rest of the little girls in our school.

Her name was Maria Cantu, and every single one of us age 10 or above at McCook Elementary who wasn’t already in love with one of our teachers was completely and madly “in love” with her. She commanded a room. The playground. The lunchroom. We worshipped her and I think she knew it. Even to this day I sometimes wonder whatever happened to Maria Cantu. Not that I would even expect her to remember me or anyone else from back then, or that I would even recognize her if she were sitting right next to me in the room right now. There’s no way. At this point she’s more a figment of my imagination than anything else.

But still, there was something special about that first crush that has somehow managed to stay with me for almost three decades of my life now.

I wondered if this would be Edgar’s Maria Cantu too?

Does his Maria – coincidentally that is her name too, Maria (I would say “what are the odds?” but we’re in a predominantly Mexican neighborhood and let’s face it Maria might as well be Kim, Cindy or Sandy here) – awaken in him the same innocent feelings of friendship and wanting to play with his crush at the playground or after school that my Maria did in me? When we go shopping for Valentine’s Day cards this year will he save one of the bigger, showier ones for her? Better yet, will he ask his crafty mother to make something extra special just for her? He is his mother’s son after all, and unlike me, Edgar and Angie are all about the little detalles.

Which brings me to another point in this whole schoolyard crush post. He first confessed to Anjelica that he had a crush on this little girl named Maria. I won’t lie and say that I wasn’t a little hurt by him telling her first instead of me, but like any good Mexican parent I then made it my personal mission to get him to confess that same secreto to me. After which of course I acted like it was the first time I had ever heard it in my life.

¿Pos qué más me quedaba? It’s not like I could rat myself out.

Anyway, it also made me think. What if we didn’t live here. Would his crush still be a Maria and would that make any difference whatsoever?

I’d say it’s safe to say I’m in plain loquito mode now. But I do think the crush is pretty cool too.

Time to take this boy Valentine shopping!

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Is Samy on ‘Mira Quién Baila’ a Sign of the Times?

samy mira quien baila univision sexuality and latinos juanofwords
Is Samy introducing a new, more accepting era of Spanish-language television?

So Samy is on Mira Quien Baila this season.  “Samy from Miami” to be more precise – who knew?  That in it of itself is not really that much of a shock.  I mean what else is the Divo up to these days?  What was kind of a little eyebrow-lifting, last night, on the premiere Univision’s hit series, is just how open the once-mum-about-his-sexuality hairdresser now was about his relationship with longtime partner Alex.

The happy couple have been together for 36 years.  This was also the first time I had ever heard Samy speak so candidly about his sexuality.

Ten years ago this would never have happened.  Much less would it have been aired on Univision or Telemundo, on prime time, for that matter.  Hell, not even a couple of years ago would this have likely happened… I don’t think.

So, what does that say about us?

Are we more accepting now of different lifestyles?  Are we finally at the point as a US Spanish-language television watching audience where we can view same sex partners in a different, less slapstick, “poking fun of” or insulting sort of way?

I guess in a way that remains to be seen… depending on how much support Samy is able to garner and how long that support is able to keep him on the show.

Could Samy quite possibly be breaking new ground?