Friday, June 12, 2009

Baby Talk en espanol

When Mallory's caseworker told me that her parents speak only Spanish, I glibly assured him that we could certainly handle enough Spanish for a one-year-old. Now I'm not so sure. She definitely perks up and listens when we speak Spanish but I think we're doing it all wrong.

When we speak English to a baby, we convert everything into short, easy little words: naptime, bedtime, sit down, stand up, good girl. Do hispanohablante mothers really say "hora de acostarse" at bedtime or "desalinado" when they wipe a sticky face? Plus I don't want to totally destroy Mallory's language development by teaching her a strange, dictionary-based Spanglish instead of the real colloquialisms.

So this is a request for help from our hispanohablante friends and family. What do Spanish-speaking mothers really say?

1. bedtime
2. naptime
3. messy
4. be careful
5. good girl
6. peekaboo
7. clap your hands
8. stand up
9. lie down
10. all done
11. night-night
12. ???


  1. Angela, you can call me anytime you need some help with the Spanish. We are both very fluent and can help in that area. Let me know!

  2. Well, there is spanish, but then there are the local languages from hundreds of spanish speaking countries. Ask a Mexican about a "gua-gua" and he will think you are crazy, but that's a car in the Carribean. So, perhaps a binky to one is a zchu-sha to another and you will never get where you are going unless you know for sure which spanish this child speaks.

    Here's a crack at a few easy ones:
    1. bedtime - acostamos
    2. naptime - siestacita or just siesta?
    3. messy - un regero (a messy)
    4. be careful - cuidate
    5. good girl - buen nina, or make up your own little colloquialism like munequita, angelita or something
    6. peekaboo - I seem to recall 'kikabu' for some reason
    7. clap your hands - toque las manos?
    8. stand up - parate
    9. lie down - acuestate
    10. all done - ja!
    11. night-night - buenos snowshoes :D
    12. ???

  3. Oops - use levantese for standup - much better and leaves off the connotation of stopping something. Much mo better...

  4. she's mexican. somewhere not too far south, I'd wager, since her parents seem to go back and forth pretty regular.

  5. I figure your Spanish is accurate just noth casual. I run into that problem with the kids' school all the time.

    My guestimates:
    1-2.They probably say dormir rather than acostarse (like "quieres dormir?" though certainly "hora de acostarte is common enough")
    3. Desordenada or...sorry to say it but I can almost guarantee they used "sucia" for dirty.
    4. Cuidado!! Or in our family, cuidadín!
    5. Bien hecho! Good job! Or qué buena que eres!
    6. cucú??
    7. Aplausos!
    8. Agree with the crowd--levántate!
    9. Acuéstate
    10. Finito! Terminado! or YA. That is what we say for everything, like vete, ya or ya no más!
    11. Buenas noches--for real!

    So the only other thing I would add is to say "mi hija" or "cariño" or in our house we say "mi niña" as a general term of endearment. The lunch ladies at school refer to Bridget as "la bridgie" which is very cute too. You could call her "la Mallory" or whatever her real name is. Cute.

    I can't wait to meet her!

  6. I don't have much to offer here except that we say "zhu-sha" (or xuxa in Portuguese) for binky and of the several Spanish-speakers I've said that in front of, none of them had a clue what I was talking about.