Our Son’s First “Real” Spanish Immersion Trip to Puerto Rico

23 Comments
Traveling to Puerto Rico has never been a “big” deal until now! Our child has been to Puerto Rico many times before. However, this trip was important. It would be our son’s first full Spanish travel immersion trip. 
Street in Old San Juan in Puerto Rico

“Mommy, is everything in Spanish only?” 

Just having turned 5 yrs. old he was already anticipating what to expect. He worried that he would not be able to communicate in Spanish with la familia, and that he wouldn’t understand. I reassured him that I’d be by his side to help.   He would be fully immersed in Spanish for two weeks, and he was aware of it. Both of us had been working hard on his Spanish, and this would be the ultimate test. We were all looking forward to our trip to Puerto Rico!
His only fully bilingual interaction has only been with me, until he heard the bilingual flight attendant speaking over the intercom system on the plane. First in English then in Spanish. He noticed it right away. Then he started asking: “Mommy, do people in Puerto Rico only speak in Spanish?  Do they know English, too?”   I used this opportunity to show him  the importance of being able to communicate in more than one language.  To ease his concerns, I also shared with him that Puerto Rico’s main language is Spanish, but many people do speak in English or at least understand it.

As we drove through the expressway he saw a huge billboard of Disney’s new movie Turbo. He asked if we can see it, and I said yes. He quickly asked if it was in Spanish, and I told him yes. He was excited! We actually saw the movie twice. During the movie he asked that I translate a word or two but overall he did very well, and understood what was going on.  

“¡En Español, por favor!” 

I have to admit that my familia was very eager to communicate and to talk to our son.  I appreciate their intentions of bonding with him but not in English! 🙂 So I had a strict rule of ONLY Spanish. English with Daddy, and with me only if he needed help to translate.  La familia complied, but it was very hard because I caught them a few times speaking to him in English.

However, even with that small set back I quickly noticed how he was expressing himself in Spanish, and taking it all in!  He would run to his Abuela and tell her something in Spanish like:  “Abuela, el perro está afuera.”  Or he’d ask his Titi how to say “come and play here” in Spanish when playing with his little cousin.

While having short conversations with me in Spanish I noticed how he’d pause to think then he’d speak. He has expanded his vocabulary, and is forming sentences on his own.  He responds to everything I say with a “Si Mami”, and often expresses himself in Spanish. Like for instance he said to his Daddy, “Esto no es tuyo es mío” when Daddy tried on his baseball cap.

Looking back… 

A year ago, I remember my son telling me very proudly “Mommy I know Spanish!”  Far from being a reality, I realized that it was time to kick into full force to really make this happen!  Today I look back and see how far we have come! I am so proud of our baby, and I’m proud of myself for sticking with it. Since, I myself had many challenges.

Raising a bilingual child is not an easy task, and it takes a lot of commitment from both the child and the parent. This trip, and seeing my child speaking in Spanish has been the best experience in our travel immersion.  It’s like the “topping” on the ice cream!

Immersion travel is one of the best gifts you can give your child. Have you traveled abroad? Would love to hear about your experience.

This post has been shared at Best4Future’s Wednesday link-up party.

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23 Responses to “Our Son’s First “Real” Spanish Immersion Trip to Puerto Rico”

  1. What a wonderful immersion trip!! Being with the family and having them all speaking the target language to your child is just great. Kudos to the family members and friends who help us raising a bilingual child. Great job! So proud of you!

  2. Frances, way to go! we're visiting Spanish-speaking family & I'm having a wake up call! Chiquita loves to talk and I constantly have to remind her to speak Spanish, and then tell her what to say!

  3. What a cool way to spend a family vacation while teaching your kids a new language…What a fantastic experience for him Frances…Nothing beats the immersion experience when it comes to learning a language especially when it comes to picking up various dialects specific to a certain regions. Thanks for another great blog post.

  4. A great post Frances, I'm happy to hear that you had a good immersion travel experience! I'm sure you'll continue to see the positive linguistic effects of your trip in the weeks to come. When our daughters were younger I noticed that about two weeks after their trip to France the new words and expressions started to come out. Their brains had to "digest" it first.

  5. Frances how wonderful. It truly is a blessing to see your trials and struggles are not in vain. The setbacks come with so many steps forward. Congratulations on a job well done!! I am glad that leonides had a great time.

  6. I really enjoyed reading this. As my wife and I are bringing up our four month old son bilingually in Wales (in Welsh and English), it's great to read about how other people do it. So many kids grow up bilingually fairly naturally in Wales, but it's kind of different for us as neither of us is from Wales. As I've become pretty fluent in Welsh, I'm the one who speaks Welsh to our son (…which is kind of odd as it's my third language, but also fun at the same time).

    Jonathan

  7. I want to take my children to China one day so that they will hear the "real" Chinese and taste the "real" Chinese culture. Since Chinese parents are so crazy about pushing their children to learn English, I guess the trip will not be a pure immersion trip for my children. But that is ok, because they are going to eat "real" Chinese food.

  8. Hello Jonathan!

    Thank you for stopping by, and what a wonderful blessing to be teaching your child Welsh when that is your third language! I struggle between the Spanish, and English so I can't even imagine adding a 3rd language. By the way, I love the name of your blog! 🙂

  9. Hi Frances! Thank you so much for this post! My spouse and I have been teaching out sons (now 6 and 9) Spanish for 5 years now. Spanish is not our first language but they have weekly tutoring sessions and we make sure that they watch Spanish cartoons and/or movies everyday. I have even started a Children's Spanish Book Club at a local library where there is a large Spanish speaking population. I found a native Speaker who was eager to help promote Spanish literacy to volunteer.

    We are planning an immersion trip to Puerto Rico (their tutor is from Puerto Rico) and think that finding a summer camp is the way to go. They speak good Spanish and so want to just find a good camp in San Juan where they can meet kids, have fun, and not even know they are practicing their Spanish. Can you please help me?? Please email me at free_your_mind26@yahoo.com

    Thank you!

  10. I have the same question as Kami above. Which camps are good? Can you recommend the one your son attended or point us to resources on finding others? My kids are 4, 6, and 8. I'd like to put them in summer camp with Spanish-speaking Puerto Rican kids when we visit.

  11. Love this story! My wife and I have 3 bilingual Spanish-English children and we couldn't have done it without regular Spanish Immersion Travel – so many fun memories and teachable moments to share with the kids!

    A quick recommendation to bilingual families: in addition to encouraging your children to speak Spanish, Please read to your children and encourage them to read in Spanish! True bilingualism goes beyond speaking to reading and writing. At a very minimum, it will give them the confidence that they truly "know" Spanish and can use it in their careers down the road.

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