It’s a special moment when your baby starts talking — or saying those first few words. It’s then when you realize just what words have resonated with them. Obviously the first ones are simple words, two-syllable words such as ma-ma, da-da and more. However, as their vocabulary and their speech develops, they add other words and before you know it, they are bossing you around!
It’s slightly different with bilingual babies — the beauty of learning two languages at once is that children cannot distinguish what they are speaking are in fact different languages. For them, it’s just another way of saying a word. In our home, I speak Spanish to my children and my husband speaks English to them. When my son was learning to speak, he would say a word such as “leche” with me, then as time went on, realized that my husband called the same thing “milk.” Through that he learned to say it one way with me and another with my husband.
I could go on and on about bilingualism and its benefits, but it’s absolutely incredible to see a 1- and 2-year-old pointing to things and telling you what it is in Spanish and then telling you what it is in English. It’s mind-blowing, even when it’s what you strived for!
I put together a list of 20 words that children learn early on and their Spanish equivalents. And in case you are wondering — my son’s first word was “caca” (poo poo) in Spanish and in English it was “bye-bye.”
What were your bilingual baby’s first words?
A bilingual baby's first words
Baby’s repeat words and sounds, and if you come from a family where more than one language is spoken, they don’t know the difference and just go with the flow. Here are 20 first words in both English and Español!
My son who is 4 only recently discovered how to say “caca” in English. Why? Because everyone just got used to saying it in Español. He thought it was so funny he kept saying POO POO, POO POO.
When I asked my other Latina and bilingual mom friends, many of them said this was their baby’s first word and later “milk” was introduced in English.
Do I need to explain this one? NO. Every baby, no matter what language learn this word…fast!
Mama, mama, mama! That’s easy enough to say in both languages. Later on does it change to ‘mommy’ or ‘mami.’
Not a word you hear much unless you are giving them chocolate, usually in English kids pronounce it more like “yeaaaaaaas” and in Spanish “schiiiiii” sounding.
This is when baby gets all possessive and only wants things for themselves. You can hear them shouting “MIO” / “MINE” as they chase you or their siblings!
“LOOK!” (or “uuuuk”) and “MIRA” (or iraaa) are first word classics.
Just writing this I can already hear my child saying (whining) “maaaas” and pointing at something. I’m sure you know what it’s like too. Any language, the feeling is the same!
Pa-pa, da-da two syllables and easy to repeat in English and Spanish.
Another one which our children learn all too quickly “DAME” or “GIVE ME”.
Pronounced the same, but spelled differently. This word is usually followed or preceded by “uh oh” or “oh no!”
Pronounced “teh-teh” this is usually for a pacifier and in some cases a bottle. My son wouldn’t say this word, instead he’d WHINE this word. ¡Ayyy!
Another word that many of my friends said was a first for their bilingual babies!
Allá or Ahí
The double L in Spanish has a “y” sound. So this is “Ah-YA” which means over there, and “ahí” which means over here. It’s a reminder of when kids begin bossing everyone around!
“Outside, outside” would say the kiddies when I babysat and it’s no different with my bilingual babe — he’d stand near the door and should “AFUERA.”
“Doggy!” Babies love animals and their reactions are so cute! “Perrito” is the Spanish word and oddly enough, the barking sound is different in Spanish than in English — “wow wow” instead of “ruf ruf.”
Just as in English, different Spanish speaking countries have their own words for things. In Chile, children often say “tuto” when they are tired or have to sleep. Rubbing his eyes, my little man would say “tuto mami, tuto”
I WANT that! // QUIERO eso! Babies are insistent little beings, aren’t they?
Eventually the siblings come along and suddenly they are either an hermano or an hermana to someone else.
“Look at the baby” we tell our little ones. Usually they squeal with delight (unless they are super jealous). In Chile babies are guaguas, pronounced “wah wah” but the correct term that all children know is “bebé”