We are just embarking on the bilingualism journey with Yago.  So far, with just two words (Hug and Hola), he is perfectly bilingual.  Of course we worry about code-switching, confusion, and how the heck to get him out of dreadful English classes in Spanish schools.

But, do you know what I am most curious about?

What will his mannerisms be like?  Every language/culture comes with its own gestures and body language.  Even without sound, a Spanish conversation is obviously not a Canadian-English one.

The Spaniards touch each other, wave their arms and yell.  Canadians listen politely from a distance, nod and apologize.

Do bilingual kids experience mannerism code-switching?  Will Yago kiss strange kids in Canadian playgrounds?  Will he repeat “Excuse me, sorry, excuse me” as old Spanish ladies elbow him in the market?

Quiet and reserved and polite?

“What lovely rocks.  After putting them in my mouth, perhaps I will place them gently in this puddle where they can be one with the universe.”

or gregarious, loud and insistent?

“Mommy, watch me throw this rock.”

Or super-duper Spanish insistent?

Mommy, watch me throw all these rocks, RIGHT NOW!”

I’m curious.  But I don’t really care, as long as he is happy.

“Hola. Hug.”

PS:  This post was included in the Blogging Carnival on Bilingualism, hosted by Bringing up Baby bilingual



  1. Your conclusion is consistant with the 2 billion other parents on the planet. That includes Chinese, Japenese, English, Portugese, German, Italian, Serbs, Greeks, Slavs, Turks and even the French!

  2. Good question!

    I guess there is a difference between multilingual kids and those of us who acquired foreign languages later in life. Just like they will likely not be language schizophrenic I guess they will find a middle ground that works for them.

    Or they will be flexible and able to adapt quickly to the current environment.

    Probably depends on how often they are immersed into the different cultures.

  3. Like marcela said, he might have both, but not at the same time. I have a friend who’s half Swedish and half Mexican, when he speaks Swedish with his friends he adopts Swedish mannerisms (even his tone of voice is different!), but when whe speaks Spanish, he completely transforms! He becomes loud, and you can see his whole body language is changed. It is quite amazing to watch him switching between languages and cultures with such ease. I don’t know if this is a trate with all children raised in a bi-lingual and bi-cultural environment, but it sure is interesting to witness!

  4. Lovely post with super photos 🙂 With my kids I guess it will depend on their exposure to both cultures. We don’t spend much time in Holland or with our Dutch family so it might be difficult to pick up the mannerism. My eldest does have one Dutch trait, not exactly a mannerism, but something extra-lingual if you like – speaking VERY loudly – in Holland they say people speak loudly because of always being on bikes and having to speak up in order to be heard against the wind!

  5. Stopping by from the carnival. We are a bilingual English/Spanish family in the U.S. My son tends to change his mannerisms depending on the company.

  6. I am bilingual but acquired it in adulthood, when I speak English I whisper when I speak to my children in Spanish the volume goes up. I think that it is acquired with the language and with contact with other people because none wants to stand out too much. It is part of the language. The more contact they will have with the minority culture the more they will copy it.

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