Bilingual Baby

Babies exposed to a second (or third or fourth) language learn to differentiate between different languages before they even learn to talk.  The authors of have proven that it is possible to raise a child to be bilingual (or in their case, multi-lingual) even if you are only monolingual.  The younger children are when they learn a second language, the better their pronunciation and accent (or lack thereof) will be.  It is incredible how young brains work, isn't it?

Johnnie is half Guatemalan, which makes Cameron a quarter Guatemalan.  Even if she had no hispanic blood, I would still want her to learn Spanish as it is the second largest spoken language in the United States and in the top languages spoken in the world.  Johnnie's parents and many of his many relatives are fluent or native Spanish speakers.  Johnnie's spanish is at a high-intermediate level.  My Spanish is limited but still better than the average monolingual person.  I am going to try my best to make Cameron as bilingual as possible and hopefully improve my own Spanish skills in the process.

Author Tim Johnson recently contacted me and offered a free electronic version of one of his books if we would give it an honest review.  The Adventures of Bosley Bear books are a dual-language series available in many different languages, Spanish included, so of course we said yes!  We received an electronic version of Bosley Goes to the Beach... a fitting book since we live in Hawaii.

Bosley Goes to the Beach is a well-written and engaging story with cute and relatable characters.  The attractive and colorful illustrations highlight key parts of the story and capture the attention of those reading the book.

The text of the story is displayed in two columns: one in English and one in Spanish.  The sentences and short paragraphs of each language line up across the two columns and key words are highlighted.  This layout is brilliant because it allows you to visually see the translation and make connections between the two languages.

The story makes excellent use of repetition, context clues, and descriptive language.  All of these aspects greatly help with comprehending the story and learning new vocabulary.  The story itself is written for young readers but when it comes to learning a new language, people of all ages could benefit from this book.

There are a few pages throughout the book that introduce new vocabulary before it is mentioned in the story.  The images on these pages are labeled with both English and Spanish names.  The vocabulary pages are helpful because they visually show what each word is.  There is also a glossary page at the end of the book that has a list of the key words in both English and Spanish.

The only thing that I was disappointed about with this book is that it doesn't include any pronunciation help at all.  If you don't have a basic understanding of Spanish pronunciation, then you would have a difficult time reading this book correctly.  This applies to the book in any of the languages available.

For example, when I was in middle school I tried to learn a few Spanish words from our encyclopedia set (this was before internet... I'm that old).  I could see that thank you was por favor but I didn't know how to pronounce it.  When I said "por FAVor" instead of "por faVOR" to a friend, she laughed at me for days.  She wasn't a very nice friend.  Of course, if I pronounced it like that in a Spanish speaking country, I would be laughed at then as well.  In many languages, changing the accented syllable of a word can change the meaning of the word completely.  We even have many words like that in English... for example, the singer will record a new record.

My point is that pronunciation help, if even only for the key words on the glossary page, would be helpful to your average non-fluent Spanish reader.  If I'm reading a book like this to my children, I want to be sure that I am pronouncing teaching words correctly.

Ultimately, I really do love this bilingual book about Bosley Bear because it improves my own Spanish as I read it to my daughter.  The repetition, short paragraphs, and highlighted text make it easy for me to learn the vocabulary and sentence structure.  I even appreciate recognizing different verb tenses throughout the story :)

Cameron also seemed to love this book about Bosley Bear as it certainly held her attention for a long while.  She pointed at the pictures while I read the text and named what she was pointing at.  Her only complaint (if she could talk) was that there were no pages to turn, at least not ones that she could physically grab.  Turning pages is "her thing" right now.  I think we'll add the paperback version of another Bosley Bear book to her Christmas list this year :)

Cameron currently loves books.  She sits happily turning the pages and pointing at the pictures.  We have many English-only books in our house but I am encouraging bilingual books as much as possible to help both of us learn the language.  We have a small collection of Spanish books (shown below) that we purchased ourselves.

Brainy Baby Spanish & English Simple Words and Phrases and My BIG Book of Spanish Words are both extra large board books that have words in Spanish and in English.

La Granja Sonora is currently Cameron's favorite book because six of the pages make animal sounds when opened and the pages are filled with detailed images.  This is an extra large board book and the words are only in Spanish.  Note: Cameron's grandma bought this book in Guatemala and I have not found it in stores or on Amazon.

We also have the Spanish versions of Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What do You Hear? and Good Night Moon.  These small board books also only have words in Spanish.

I may have just ordered Cameron some more Spanish books for her upcoming birthday... shhh! ;)

We have one bilingual interactive toy (a gift from grandma) and that is the Chicco Talking Farm.  This electronic toy can be set to speak in Spanish or English.  It will name what object you press or it will play a game, asking you to "press the animal that makes this sound..."  Occasionally when Cameron is playing with it, I will hear it say "Correcto!"  Lucky guess, Cameron!

As I mentioned, my Spanish is limited but I use what I do know every day with Cameron.  Here are some of my current efforts:
  • I read books in Spanish to her (started at birth)
  • I say the Spanish names (if I know them) of pictures and objects when she points to them
  • I ask her basic questions in Spanish about what we see when we are outside
  • I ask her questions in Spanish about where things are
  • I sing songs in Spanish to her (okay, I know one song but I'm learning more!)
  • Many of Dulce's commands are in Spanish so she hears those words often!

I've started a Pinterest board of Bilingual Baby Inspiration that will grow as I come across more resources.  If you know of any great websites, let me know in a comment!

"One language sets you in a corridor for life. Two languages open every door along the way."
~Frank Smith


  1. When I lived in Alamogordo NM (4th - 6th grades) they had wonderful music programs in the public school system. We learned songs in English and Spanish but the only one I can remember now is Don Gato (about a cat in love). We sang some versus in English, some in Spanish.

  2. has a flyer that has many, many Spanish books for different ages at great prices.

  3. I have a friend who is bilingual in English and Japanese. Her mother is from Okinawa. She speaks only Japanese with her. Her father is bilingual, English and Japanese, but he is Japanese American from Hawaii. She grew up only speaking English with him. Today as a grown woman, she is totally fluent in both languages because she spoke two languages growing up.