The Sound of Silence

bilingual bilingualism espanolita

Silence.

It’s a beautiful sound.

And, sometimes in this crazy adventure of bilingual parenting of raising my daughter in my second language, I sometimes just want to be silent.

At times, while E. and I play on the floor of her room, waiting for papá to come home from work, both of us restless, tired, ready for the day to end, I close my mouth.

I find myself tired. Cansada de hablar en español todo el día. Tired of being the only one to produce words, tired of hearing my voice with no response in return.

I’m torn between the beauty of mother and daughter enjoying a few moments of silence as we pile wooden block upon wooden block and this voice inside my head that reminds me of the importance of providing rich and meaningful input to my child in order to build up her vocabulary. I should be talking and engaging her, I think.

Yet, the more I ponder this inner dilemma, the more I think perhaps it’s okay to have moments of silence.

“I’ve begun to realize that you can listen to silence and learn from it. It has a quality and a dimension all its own.” – Chaim Potok

What can E. learn from silence?

That when we turn off our voice, we turn up our other senses.

We can hear the hum of the washer coming from the kitchen and the chuga-chuga-choo-choo of the train that passes by our apartment.

We can smell the cinnamon and cardamom from the granola baking in the oven and the freshly cut grass wafting in through the window.

In silence, our attention hones in to the feel of the crevices in the wooden blocks we are stacking into towers.

Or, the scratchy fibers of the Ikea rug on the floor.

Other times we learn about each other just by snuggling and staring at each other, waiting to see who blinks first.

bilingual bilingualism espanolita language

Yes, there is much to learn in silence. The absence of sound is not to be dismissed. “It has a quality and a dimension all its own.”

Querida E., just as I want you to learn as many palabras as possible in both English and Spanish, I also want you to learn in and from those occasional moments of silence.

When no one is talking, what do you see? what do you feel? what do you smell?

It is the sound of silence.

¿A qué es bonito, verdad?

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