Language LearningMulticultural Vida

Raising Bilingual Kids: When Mama Forgets to Speak Spanish

I have a confession. When I get upset I hiss at my child in English. It used to happen on rare occasions but lately, now that my child is 5 going on 15, it is happening more and more. I say things once or twice—“Lávate las manos por favor.” (Please wash your hands.) Followed by “Dije que te vayas a lavar las manos.” (I said go wash your hands.) By the third or fourth time it is usually followed by “ENZO GO WASH YOUR HANDS NOW.” (yes, this is me, screaming).

I recognize this is an issue. I knew it was going to get harder as my son got older, but I always thought that it would be because my son would be the one not speaking the target language, not me. There are days when he does answer in English and I will say, “you can speak to me in Spanish or French, take your pick.” I have that luxury of picking between two languages!

I also recognize that sometimes I may be a bit lazy and I may lose my patience. I’m sure some of you will relate to this: after a long day, the words just flow better in English (or, enter other home language here). But I have identified the problem and I’m ready to do something about it, and I have started!


If you’re a parent who struggles with speaking the target language, then I have some tips for you!

These are the things I’m doing to help me get back on track:

1. Watch TV in the target language. I realize that it’s not enough to have my child watch cartoons in Spanish; I have to make an effort to watch and train my mind to think in Spanish, so I will be watching more news in Spanish, more Ecuavisa (the Ecuadorian channel) and more CNN en español.

2. Read in Spanish. I’ve also been trying to read more in Spanish: the paper (did you know that the NYTimes has a Spanish digital edition ?). Twitter helps with this, lately I’ve been reading a lot of news coming out of Ecuador. (Following hashtag #TerremotoEcuador) I also love reading El Universo online.

3. Skype more with my friends in Spanish-speaking countries. I have tons of friends in Ecuador (that I’ve had since middle school, and some since I was little!) and things are busy so we don’t speak much on the phone, relying more on texting or What’s App. I’m going to make an effort to talk to them more often.

4. Watch novelas. Yes, it is technically TV but in my mind, novelas deserve a place of their own. You see, I credit novelas with helping me train my mind while I was pregnant. I started watching novelas every night in order to train myself to think in Spanish while I was pregnant, in preparation for my birth of my child. Even when I was home during maternity leave, I’d watch something while I was breastfeeding or pumping. I used to watch them on Youtube, but now you can watch some great ones on Netflix too!

5. Listen to more music in Spanish at home. I listen to music all the time, usually on my commute. But by playing music at home, I’m thinking my son will listen and everything will just sink in, right? Instead of relying on the TV for background noise (which I must confess I do) I can listen to music on my phone while I make dinner, or while I am doing other things. This will help me think more in Spanish and will help my son as well!

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raising Bilingual Kids-whe mama forgets to Speak Spanish- 5 tips to get you back on track

Do you ever forget to speak in the target language? What do you do to get back on track?
Share your tips below!

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Diana Limongi
Diana a mom, activist, nonprofit professional, podcaster and writer from Queens, NY. She writes about motherhood, activism, raising my multilingual kids, culture and travel. She and her multicultural family live in Queens, NY.


  1. Si!
    I do it all the time. I just slip. It’s like driving on road with two canals on either side! Español is the target main carretera , but I find myself resbalando into English cuando estoy frustrada or agotada and then you need the help of a tow truck para salir.

    I try and make my first thought when I wake up in Spanish to set the day en Español. If I slip and say it in Spanglish I force myself to repeat the same sentence again but in puro Spanish.
    Totally agree más música, audio cuentos, all media in target language helps so much!

    Ay que si! Telenovelas from home countries are like reboot button, they help you not forget your culture and language.

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