3.5yo daughter “doesn’t like” Spanish—advice?


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My husband (Ecuadorian) and I (American) live in the US and have tried to do OPOL since our daughter was born. Originally she picked up Spanish very well and could speak fluently with both of us since she was about 2 years old. Occasionally her Spanish has fallen behind English, but we’ve been able to remedy that by introducing more Spanish cartoons and things like that.

However, in the last few months my daughter has been actively rejecting Spanish a lot more. It’s now been several months since she has spoken more than a few phrases in Spanish. I think there are a few reasons for this: her Spanish-speaking grandparents who used to visit often left the country for several months (now they’re back but she’s now talking to them mostly in English even though they have only limited English proficiency); she is doing more hours in preschool where Spanish is not used; and her dad has been reading more English-language books with her that supplant some of the time for interacting in Spanish [ETA he reads English books when she chooses them as her bedtime story and so on].

In response I’ve been trying to ramp up Spanish in other ways, but she resists it a lot. (I have more time to devote to this than my husband does because I’m with our children full-time while he works a different job.) For example, we have a program that allows us to check out digital audiobooks through our library, and I suggest looking for Spanish books there, but she says, “no, English only.” I tried starting to speak Spanish also when my husband is around to model responding that way, but my daughter says, “I don’t want you to speak Spanish” or “I don’t want to hear Spanish right now, Mom.” While I can understand Spanish pretty well, I’m horrible at speaking it, so maybe that’s part of the problem, but I’m not sure that’s the main issue. Today at dinner she said the line from the title of my post—“I don’t like Spanish.” 😕

Another thing we’ve tried is bringing in a couple Spanish-speaking babysitters and asking them to pretend they can’t understand English well, but she still speaks to them in English like she does with her grandparents. I’d like to try to get her in a playgroup with children her age speaking Spanish, but I suspect they might just end up speaking English there as well.

I’m mainly having a hard time trying to think of feasible ways to make it a true necessity for her to use Spanish to communicate and/or make it more appealing. I’m wondering if anyone has ideas we maybe haven’t thought of or experiences to share. I’m also wondering how likely is it that my daughter will grow out of this phase as she matures more—should we relax or should we panic? Lol.

As a side note, we also have a 15-month-old daughter, but so far she’s only speaking a few words, so that’s why I didn’t mention her in the rest of the post.
@alearose Find other kids who speak Spanish and do a play date with them. It blew my kid’s mind that other kids spoke Mandarin and it wasn’t just mommy and grandma. He was more receptive when he also heard his preschool teacher speaking with another mom in Mandarin. Once we got him into a play-based Mandarin class, he is way more open to learning and speaking Mandarin at home now.
@alearose Children go through phases. The thing that truly helped was visiting my country and seeing family who don't understand her community language so she had to speak my language. I understand that may not be feasible though. Realistically, a playdate with children in the US will probably mean speaking English, my kid has friends who use the same language as me at home but they don't ever speak it together, expect maybe as a game. It helps a little to hear her friends speak to their parents though.

I think the main thing is to accept she is a person with her own free will and you can't force or control her. I'd just increase exposure as much as possible and try not to stress too much. She's very young, she has a whole life ahead to learn whatever language she wants.
@kufe He speaks mostly Spanish to her. He reads some books in English because he usually does the bedtime routine with my daughter. We let her choose the books she wants to read, and most of her favorites right now are in English.
@branannabanana That’s what my family does too- my husband is bilingual so he just translates the story (roughly) into Mandarin, and I tell the story in English based on memory/some Chinese reading/pictures.
@kufe My husband is hesitant to be too strict with the language because he has a lot of examples with friends and family where that kind of approach has backfired. But now that our daughter isn’t speaking much Spanish at all he’s reconsidering a bit. There doesn’t seem to be a clear consensus about which way is best, so we are both trying to muddle through with it. I appreciate hearing everyone’s perspectives.
@deaconbling It’s hard because a lot of her favorite books are in English. We’ve considered making our own translations so he can read them in Spanish, but we haven’t prioritized it enough to take the time to do it yet. I will try to push it higher on the priority list.
@alearose When my kids were young, I just translated on the fly since the books were simpler. And often I just described what was on the pages if they were mostly images. At a young age, kids won’t know that what you are saying doesn’t match the page.
@alearose It took some time, but I wrote Spanish translations in a lot of our favorite books using transparent post-it notes! Helps me be consistent with the translation instead of doing it on the fly
@drobe008 I don’t think I’ve ever seen transparent post-it notes—that could be great for a lot of our books. I will definitely look for some. Thank you.