Welcome back to part 2 of my interview with Andrés Salguero.
If you missed Monday’s post, be sure to check it out here.
Today, Andrés and his wife, Christina, share their thoughts on what it means to be bilingual and bi-cultural. And, if you haven’t already entered the giveaway for a FREE copy of his debut album, be sure to enter today! The winner will be announced this Friday on the blog. Alright, then, let’s pick up where we left off…
What language(s) did you speak growing up?
Andrés: Growing up in Bogotá, I grew up speaking Spanish. However, my dad would always teach me and my brother a few words in English here and there. He didn’t speak fluent English himself, but he thought it was important for us to know more than one language.
Christina: When I was a baby, a neighbor encouraged my parents to speak only Spanish as a family and reassured them that I would pick up English when I got to school. Luckily, that is what they did. I did successfully pick up English, and today I speak fluent Spanish. Since so much of my extended family still lives in Colombia, for my parents it was very important that I preserve the ability to speak Spanish so I could communicate with them.
Can you paint us a picture of your daily life now in terms of language use. Which languages do you use, when, with whom, etc.? Would you say that you have a dominant or stronger language?
Andrés: We speak only Spanish to each other. Especially living in the DC area, we find many other people who speak Spanish – at stores, on the bus, in our neighborhood, everywhere – and we tend to approach people in Spanish if they look like they might speak it.
Christina: I like to speak Spanish to kids and teenagers, even when I can tell that is not the language they feel most comfortable in, because I like to see them stretch to find the word they are looking for.
Andrés: Sometimes at a store or restaurant, I find myself unconsciously saying “Gracias!” to the clerk – even when they’re clearly not a Spanish speaker. I think, though, that at this point there are some words and phrases that have been incorporated into everyone’s vocabulary, which underscores how ubiquitous Spanish is in the US nowadays.
Christina: English is my stronger language. I’ve spent many more hours in my lifetime speaking, reading, writing and thinking in English. I am very thankful, though, to be able to have strong Spanish. It lets me be part of the Latino community in a way that I wouldn’t be able to if I didn’t speak Spanish.
As a parent, I am finding that playing music in Spanish (the language we speak at home) is a fantastic way for my daughter to learn words. Could you speak to that, to the role of music in language learning and in promoting culture?
Christina: For parents of budding Spanish-speakers trying to create a language-rich home in the minority language (Spanish), music is a great way to expand children’s vocabulary.
My experience was that, since my engagement with Spanish was limited to the “family” sphere, there were many words that, believe it or not, I didn’t know, just because they never came up in day-to-day conversation. As a child I knew mano (hand), but not muñeca (wrist); I knew río (river), but not quebrada (creek).
Hearing songs together in Spanish offers an opportunity to expand the vocabulary that’s used in your day-to-day conversations as a family.
Andrés: Music also offers a built-in incentive because it’s fun. A child will want to learn the words to their favorite song and hear and sing it over and over again because they enjoy the song, and practice Spanish along the way.
Your website reads “Bilingual Music para la familia.” Tell our readers about the mission, or vision, behind your music. Why compose music in two languages?
I believe that learning about other people, languages and cultures is very important. In the US, the Latino and Spanish-speaking community is one of the largest and fastest growing. For Latino children, my program gives them an opportunity to see themselves reflected and their experience honored. When I’m visit a school or library, and I say, for example, “Ok, now we are going to travel to Bolivia” and a child’s face lights up because his parents or grandparents are from Bolivia. For all children, this program gives us an opportunity to learn or practice Spanish, to explore a map of the Americas and find, for example, the largest country in South America, and to hear an instrument from Latin America, such as the ocarina.
What does being bilingual mean to you?
Andrés: I feel very privileged to be able to navigate two different cultures. I could not do that if I were not bilingual.
¡Muchas gracias a Andrés y a tu mujer, Christina, por compartir vuestra historia y vuestra música con nosotros!
If you haven’t already entered the giveaway announced Monday on the blog, please be sure to enter by clicking on the Rafflecopter link here and following the directions.