Making the most out of the language explosion

Making the most out of the language explosion

On this episode of Bilingual Avenue, I host a consulting call with a member of the Bilingual Avenue club, Amber Money.  We chat about how to make the most out of the language explosion, what to do when children mix languages and how to set expectations around language. 

The Question

My daughter is 2 1/2 and her language is really booming.  I feel like it is a very critical time to model my language expectations and for her to receive as much exposure as possible in Spanish.  She attends an English school M, W and F and no one else in my family speaks Spanish so I am her only resource for the language.  What were your favorite go to activities with your daughter at this age so that I maximize the time I have with her?

The answer

Let’s start thinking about what is happening developmentally at this stage.  At this age, children can learn up to 8-9 words a day.  She is also using language for remembering, thinking, reasoning, self-control and planning!  It is important for us to understand how children are processing language so that we can give them vocabulary that they can appropriately use.

One of my favorite strategies during this stage is to narrate what I am doing about the day.  I started this at an early age just focusing on one to two words.  However, at this stage I added more depth to the narration.  I would also leverage narration to provide context. For example, I may say “We are not going in the stroller today because it is too cold today.”   This allows the child to start making connections with the world around them and our own reasoning.  Over time, they will start connecting language to their own thoughts!

Children are also primed for learning about concepts such as full, empty, dirty, clean, etc. Visuals can be a great way to teach concepts. You can also get creative with objects you have around your house.

Books are a great tool for this stage.  A fun twist to leveraging books are story sacks where you collect (or buy) objects that represent a story.  As you read the book, you take out items from the sack to add more depth to the story and help your children internalize the plot.

The Question

My daughter speaks a lot of Spanglish right now.  For example she will ask, “Where is the luna?”  I will respond and model “Donde esta la luna?” and so forth.  However, if my husband or another English speaker is around should I be upfront in talking to them about modeling the English question?  I wonder how much direction I should give other people since they are very unfamiliar with bilingualism. 

The answer

Let’s start by talking about what may be causing your daughter to do the switch.  Here are two situations where an individual may “mix” their languages:

Code switching occurs when a multilingual individual switches between two or more languages throughout one conversation. Borrowing is when a multilingual individual you “borrows” words from another language.  You will have to monitor to see which one she is falling into.

It will be helpful to create boundaries around each language.  I would encourage you to talk to your husband and other English speakers so that they can also model English words that she may be using in Spanish. 

The Question

You mention a lot setting expectations for our little ones.  Could you walk me through setting up the expectation of talking to mommy in Spanish at this young age?  Currently if she says something in English to me I gently repeat in Spanish.  If she is asking for something I say it in Spanish until she repeats what I said.  Is there anything else I should look out for or do?  Maybe have a certain expression to use?    

The answer

I like to reference research when we are looking at our children’s development.  Research shows that when a child answers in a “wrong language” parents should do the following: 1) have a positive response and 2) model the words in the “right language.”  This type of reaction tends boost vocabulary the most in children so I would encourage you to keep that up.

It is also helpful to be clear on what language should be speaking at certain times and to whom. If you can, strive to set those boundaries, it will make things simpler for your daughter to discern which words to use and in what settings.

It is also helpful to work on expectations with our children.  It really is amazing what children can achieve if we create some benchmarks fro them.  There are also some principles I like to establish when working with expectations, they are as follows:

  • It’s not an all or nothing attitude
  • Be clear and consistent
  • Each child is unique!

Keep these in mind when setting language expectations because just like we set expectations for behavior, discipline, homework, we can set expectations for language.


Amber hopped on the Autobahn and answered a few questions to help other families on their language journey:

  • What is your favorite resource for supplementing Spanish in your home?

Google and YouTube for finding traditional and authentic resources such as Canta Juegos and Mundo Lanugo

  • What is the best advice you have received as a bilingual parent?

-Take it one day at a time.  If you did not get it right the first time, more than likely you will have another opportunity to make things right. Also, take the time to journal about your children’s language journey

  • What is one children’s book in Spanish that you recommend to other parents?
    Luna (De la luna a la cuna)


The Little Linguist Instragram Account


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