Language LearningSpanish

Things to Say to Your Kids When They Say “Why Do I Have to Speak Spanish?”


The older our children get, the more likely it is they will favor English to Spanish (or any other minority language). English, or the majority language, will undoubtedly become their preferred language. We’ve already seen this with our son and had discussions about this with him, about how important it is for him to keep speaking Spanish and French.

I was sure that other parents were dealing with the same thing, so I asked them how they dealt with their kids answering back in English, or refusing to speak the minority language.

Parents agree: It strengthens the ties to family.

Most parents point to perhaps the most important aspect: Being bilingual allows them to communicate with their families and know about their heritage.

Mundo Lanugo founder Carla Curiel says she highlights the fact that the abuelos only speak Spanish, so if they don’t learn to speak Spanish they will be unable to communicate with them and with everyone else in Dominican Republic.

Enzo y abuelitos Sesame Place

“So they can communicate with their abuelos, so they know the language and culture of their mother.” – Margarita, mom of 3

Persistance, persistance

You have to be persistent! Don’t get angry, and don’t give up! Xochitl says “I don’t get angry, I just say you speak to me in Spanish.”

“No me enojo, solo le repito que a mi se me habla en español, y le repito lo que me esta diciendo en ingles pero en español.” – Xochitl

That’s the way it is.

When Lorraine was six, (and her sister was four years old) they were living in Spain. Lorraine says her dad said, “We are speaking English as of today.” We were in Spain. We didn’t put up a fight. – Lorraine


Highlight the positive…

Dania says,


(I’d add… read and understand twice as many books, watch twice as much TV!)

But sometimes we just have to be strict about it…

“It depends on the day, sometimes my answer is because I said so.” -Dania says

Charge them money when they step out of line…

“Sometimes I say I’m going to charge her 5 cents per every English word she tells me.” -Dania, Embracing Diversity

Try to reason with them… one day they will understand.

Silvia from Mama Latina Tips says, “Ahorita posiblemente no comprendan esto, pero en el futuro hablar dos idiomas les dará ventaja en muchas situaciones.” (Now you may not understand this, but in the future speaking two languages will be an advantage in many situations.” She says they smile and keep playing.

Finally, this mom says they’re going to learn it either way… but it’s better if they do it willingly.

Lo aprendes a las buenas o a las malas- It can be much more fun if it’s a las buenas.

Have your kids asked you why they must speak Spanish?
What have you said to them?
Share with us!

Why do I have to speak Spanish


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 Comment

  1. I love this! It is a daily struggle to get our kids to learn and continue to speak the minority language (in our case, Spanish), but it is so worth it! I like that other moms gave different tips, I know I’ll be using those soon. Thanks for sharing!

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