DEAR HARRIETTE: I am an immigrant to the United States who has been here for around 20 years. When my daughters were born here, I tried to speak only Spanish to them so they would know their family's language.
This worked for a few years, until they went to school. Now they won't speak Spanish back to me; they just listen and respond in English. I can't believe how quickly they've lost the language in four years. All they say in Spanish now are family member's names. How can I get them back on the right track with their Spanish? -- Worried Papa, Bronx, New York
DEAR WORRIED PAPA: The very good news is that your daughters continue to understand the Spanish language, even though right now they are refusing to speak it to you. As long as they know what you are saying, there is a good chance that later in life when they need the language -- for work or travel or some other reason -- they should be able to recall it.
Sadly, many children of immigrants try very hard to lose their accents and any other distinguishing characteristics that highlight their uniqueness. It is often only after they become adults that they recognize that all aspects of who they are should be valued, especially their heritage. Continue to speak to them in Spanish. You may also choose to speak to them in English as well, so there's some give and take. Gently continue to remind them of the treasures of your family's heritage.