Friday, August 17, 2007

Bye Bye Dora

Gabi LOVES Dora. And Diego (who is called Fuego). And Baby Jaguar and Boots and all the other lovely characters that have been banned, as of today, from our household. Gabi has been picking up a lot of Spanish from these shows. She makes up songs with Spanish words when we're in the car, and shouts out the latest Spanish verb when she's jumping on the couch. Normally, this would be considered a good thing, child development-wise and all. Who doesn't want their child to learn a second language? The thing is, Spanish is Gabi's THIRD language, and my husband thinks she's learning it at the expense of his language, which is Portuguese.

Gilberto has only ever spoken Portuguese to Gabi. She understands every single word he says, which is pretty amazing, but she responds in English. She was starting to speak a bit after we spent three weeks in Brazil in April. Gabi was especially quick to start saying the Portuguese please and thank you, as it resulted in handfuls of candy from her Grandmother. Dora, in Brazil, speaks Portuguese and teaches English. It was so cool! But once we got back, Dora started teaching Spanish again, and turned my husband's world upside down.

I understand where he's coming from. It would drive me crazy if Gabi turned to her Dad after I said something, and asked him what the heck I was saying. She's only done this a few times to him, and I think it was more because she didn't know a particular word he was using, but it was still upsetting for him. I don't mind banning Dora and Diego for the time being, if it helps Gabi focus more on her Portuguese.

Last night we started brainstorming on ways to increase Gabi's understanding of the language and jump start her verbal communication. We are going to order some children's DVDs from Brazil. Gilberto is going to teach her catchy children's songs and rhymes (he, being a guy, only knows one childhood song, so his mom is coming to the rescue) to make it more fun. My mom is going to slip all the Spanish language books Gabi grabs on their weekly Library trips back to the Librarian before checking out. And my husband's cousin, Wanderley, who lives with us, will also continue to only speak Portuguese with her. This is all fairly new, so I'm sure we'll come up with more ideas as time goes on.

My mom would also like to start taking Portuguese lessons. I need to start studying it a bit more, too. Mostly so that when Gabi is older and tries to bad mouth me in Portuguese, I'll understand what she's saying. But it will also come in handy now, as I try to contribute as much as I can to her bilingualism.

What's neat from all of this is that we know how well she can pick up languages. Gilberto is also fluent in Spanish, and a few years down the road he's looking forward to teaching her that language as well. Just not now. Maybe then we'll be able to reintroduce Dora, Diego and all of their friends back into our home. Or sooner, if we can find her speaking Portuguese!

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