Raising a Bilingual Kid: “Can You Súbele Un Poquito Please?”

Every time we get in the car it’s almost always guaranteed that Edgar will utter this phrase: Can you súbele un poquito please?  He’s been doing so for as long as I can remember, and until just this past weekend, I had never even really though about it.  I’ll admit, usually I’m more preoccupied with which song is playing on the radio as we’re cruising to our destination.  I’ll be channel surfing, a song that he likes will come on, I’ll change the radio station, and he’ll say: Wait! Wait! Put it back!  I like that song!  Followed by: can you súbele un poquito please? 

We can hardly ever agree on a good song we both like.

raising a bilingual kid language and music
He'd probably lose it if I played this song in the car. Now I want to play it!

He’s into mostly modern rock and alternative rock music.  That new age stuff that to me just sounds like a bunch of noise.  Me… I’m more into the heavy pop music and popular rap – none of the really hardcore stuff.  Think Rihanna, Nicki Minaj and Jennifer Lopez.  I know, kind of pathetic for a man my age… but oh well!  ¿Qué le voy hacer?  Every once in a while I’ll get into a puras rancheras or mariachi kind of mood, and that’s when he’ll start asking for his iPod and his earphones.  He knows better than to say he doesn’t like it, but he’ll try as hard as he can to tune it out.

Still, looking at this – his best Spanglish attempt – more closely now, there are certainly a couple of things that come to mind.  First of all, he uses súbele instead of súbale, which as you all know means he’s tuteando-ing me!  To my parents, for us to tutear them – call them by the more informal tu as opposed to the more much more formal and meant for elders usted – was a huge form of disrespect.  If we did it to another adult besides them, regardless of who it was, it was almost always reason enough for a punishment.  We knew from a very early age that our elders deserved our utmost respect.  Dammit!  It’s too late to go back and teach Edgar the difference from the beginning.  Yet another reason why my parents were so much better at this job!

I’m telling you!  Their generation just made it look so easy.

Okay, so we can still teach him the difference, and it’s not like the poor kid is out there trying to be disrespectful to anyone… it’s just a little frustrating.  ¿Me entienden?

The other thing I noticed, which is much more on the positive side, is that regardless of how much he may or may not struggle with it, Edgar still chooses to make an attempt at using Spanish.  He knows it’s a part of who he is, and everyday it seems he is saying more and more things in Spanish… or Spanglish, más bien.  I think that’s definitely a step in the right direction!  After all, it wasn’t too long ago that he was protesting uttering anything in Spanish at all.

Baby steps, Juan.  Baby steps!

3 thoughts on “Raising a Bilingual Kid: “Can You Súbele Un Poquito Please?”

  1. Totally with you, Juan. A mí, de “usted, señora y tenga” por favor. Especialmente si pago por un producto o servicio. A personas mayores o de alta estima y respeto: “usted” para demostrar mi caballerosidad o para establecer mi distancia a un desconocido cuyas intenciones no conozco. I know it’s old-school, but I respect you more now that I know you are doing your part in a very public space. Thanks, Juan!

  2. So pardon my ignorance as my 3 years of learning the language “off the street” at age 41 has failed to give me full fluency yet…is it súbele or súbale?

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