I was born into a household with a Spanish mother and an American father. At the time of my birth, my mother had only been in the United States for about a year and spoke very little, broken English. My father, born and raised in the States, spoke very little, broken Spanish. How they ever managed to communicate when they met abroad is beyond me. I guess there is some truth to the concept of the universal language of love after all.
My mother was a stay at home mom during my preschool years, and during the day, we would speak only Spanish at home together. For the first five years of my life, Spanish was my primary language. In the evening, when my father returned home from work, we would speak English. Some may think that this might be confusing for a child, but it was not. Intuitively I knew how to separate both languages, and what language to speak to whom. I did not realize at the time that our household was different from most others.
I didn’t have too much difficulty with grammar when I entered grade school. I was a little behind at first, especially in vocabulary, but quickly caught up to my peers. Soon English became one of my strongest subjects as well as my primary language.
By the time I was a teen, my parents had divorced and my mother could speak English fairly well. However, it was very important to her that I never would forget how to speak Spanish. Her reasoning was twofold; she didn’t want me to forget my Spanish roots, and she had the foresight even back in the 1960’s to know that being bilingual would be advantageous in the future workplace. She accomplished this by not allowing me to speak to her in English at home, and she would not acknowledge me if I did. I also took two years of Spanish in high school for an easy “A.” This went on until my later teenage years, and then it became increasingly difficult for her to control my use of language, among other things. She finally gave up, but I am happy to say that because of her persistence, I have never lost my fluency in Spanish.