Code-Switching

“Que esta diciendo, Mami??”

Fernando Morales

I have mentioned this numerous times before, but I am way more comfortable speaking in English than in Spanish.  At home and with my mom though, I am really comfortable speaking Spanish, flaws and all. However, when my mom and I are having a heated discussion regarding my parenting because she thinks she’s the most perfect mom in the world, I am so angry and frustrated, that my brain isn’t translating quick enough and I start arguing with her in English.  This happens with texting, too. When I want to text her in a hurry, and it’s an emergency, I will usually type in English.

Fernandito recently had the opposite experience.  My mom had texted me that Fernandito had fallen at her house while they were playing, and he was really hurt.  Luckily I was at a training and not in the classroom and was able to walk out and drive to my mom’s. We then proceeded to take him the ER.  He was crying and in pain. This is important because my previous blogs have been about Fernandito being all “I love English”. Anyway, Fernandito was taken in to get weighed and the nurse took his temperature.  The nurse then asked him, “What happened?”, “Where does it hurt?” These simple questions that I knew Fernandito understood under normal circumstances could not be answered because he had gone into panic mode. He looked at me and said, “QUE?? QUE DICE MAMI?? QUE ESTÁ DICIENDO???”

Any code-switching he had, had gone out the window.  His brain went into, “Me duele y no tengo la paciencia para traducir esto.”  His brain reminded me of my brain when I was upset and my brain couldn’t translate quick enough.

I didn’t think this logically at first, though.  When he was asking me to translate, which I did, I was more in shock.  I couldn’t believe that he needed me to translate the nurse’s questions.  I wasn’t angry or disappointed, by any means, I was genuinely in shock.

And then, I was proud.  Proud that his comfort language right now is Spanish.  That may not always be the case, but right now it is.

Fernandito’s Spanish has surpassed mine.  It has gotten to the point where I find myself asking Fernandito to help me translate.  I have asked him, “Como se dice ‘grasshopper’ otra vez?” and he responded with, “Saltamontes”.  But what I love the most about this, is that he sees his mother looking up words in Spanish, asking for his help to translate, calling her mom for help, telling him “I don’t know what this means yet”, and struggling to read some of his more complicated Spanish bedtime stories, as perfectly normal.  My struggles to continue to establish this Spanish home are his norm. And that makes me feel so unbelievably proud of myself. He’s not judging me. No one is. And this is why I keep trying.

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