In the beginning, I assumed that our biggest hurdle would be the obvious: I do not speak Spanish! This fact certainly makes teaching difficult. Little did I know, however, that we were about to encounter an emotional stumbling block. . .
We first started our Spanish ventures when “Big Sister” was around 3-years-old. She enjoyed it right away and I thought things were really going to take off back then. Around that time, I met a friend, an amiga, who speaks only Spanish. This was a major encouragement because the impetus was on me to break the language barrier. If I wanted to communicate, I had to speak en Español.
This blessing turned out, however, to be a major hurdle at the time. My amiga did not know to make the context of her Spanish super clear to “Big Sister” who was just beginning the language. We had no idea at the time, but as my daughter became increasingly angry and resistant to learning Spanish—and eventually, almost hostile to even seeing mi amiga!—it was clear that something was very wrong.
At first, I interpreted “Big Sister’s” attitude as a disciplinary issue. She was probably almost 4 by this point and was quite ready to lash out at my lovely native speaking friend. I felt flabbergasted and angry at my daughter’s behavior. . .but then, it occurred to me that out of the norm behavior was simply a response to something out of the norm in her environment.
From there, the issue became plain as day! Through “Big Sister’s” 3-year-old eyes, our family seemed to be welcoming this new stranger with open arms. . .and allowing her to laugh at and make fun of her. My heart was broken! “Big Sister” was too little to understand that my gregarious amiga, full of laughter, simply thought she was adorable. All my daughter heard and saw was a stranger speaking strange words, pointing, and laughing. No wonder she had grown so angry and resistant!
Praise God, once my amiga and I had both apologized to “Big Sister” and the situation had been clarified, emotional healing took place rather quickly and easily. But it would be another 6 months to a year before we would safely get back to learning. . .