Saturday, July 30, 2005

El sexto sentido de los niños

It's always strange when two separate worlds converge .... for example, I never think that the documentary I'm making with two friends on everyday psychic experiences has any connection with my work on Spanish language and culture. But this week, I've had two of those everyday psychic experiences with my son, and both were related to Spanish.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about the gender of inanimate objects; my first sentence was, "What makes a table feminine and a tree masculine?" Then the other day, I sat down in a pizzeria with my two sons, and the first thing the younger one said was, "Why is the word for table feminine in Spanish?" I said, "Have you been reading my blog?", and he replied, "What blog?" He had no idea what I was talking about, and I couldn't figure out how he came out with that, when I know I didn't mention it to him.

What followed then was a very funny conversation about why things are masculine or feminine in Spanish -- my middle son said, "'Table' is feminine because all the men are standing at the bar. And 'napkin' is feminine, because men just use their arm." But I was still surprised that the topic had come up.

Then, yesterday I was thinking about writing a post on how I regret not having spoken Spanish to my kids (and I still don't speak to them directly in Spanish, although are surrounded by it all the time, between my friends, my music, and my telenovelas). I actually stopped speaking Spanish at all for ten years, after having my kids, for reasons that are still not totally clear to me ... although I think most of it had to do with losing a part of my self -- my Latina alter-ego -- after becoming a mother, and only reclaiming that within the last 6 or 7 years. Another part was that I'm not a native speaker, and my husband doesn't speak Spanish, both factors that made it less likely for me to speak to them in Spanish. But oh, how I wish I had. And recently I've considered starting to do it.

Then last night, at dinner, this same son said, "How come you never speak to us in Spanish?"

I'm going to have to start watching what I think! And I think I'm going to have to start speaking to my kids -- at least that one -- in Spanish.

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