I’m sure it happens in any language – when you become a parent, you are suddenly introduced to an entirely new set of vocabulary, which changes and expands as your child grows. It starts off with “Braxton-Hicks” and “colostrum” and goes on to “separation anxiety” and “parallel play.” Don’t know what I’ve just said? Then you probably haven’t had children in the last twenty years (or, perhaps, you are a father).
The same expansion in vocabulary happened for me in Spanish. Although I had spoken Spanish for years and traveled throughout Latin America, after our little Monkey was born I suddenly learned words I had never known (or needed) before. And I learned even more during our latest trip to Costa Rica, now that our little Monkey is a toddler. (By the way, I never heard anyone use a Spanish equivalent for the English term “toddler” – does anyone know of one?)
Baby: Bebé (beh-BAY) – By the way, this is not to be used in the English sense of being the “baby of the family.” I recall the strange looks I got in Bolivia when, as a twenty year old, I used this expression to say that I was the youngest of my siblings. I quickly learned to say that I was la menor (“the youngest”). Made much more sense to them!
Child: Niño/a (NEEN-yo or NEEN-ya) – Remember to use the masculine “o” for a boy and feminine “a” for a girl.
Cute: Lindo/a (LEEN-doh or LEEN-dah) – This can mean “pretty,” as in a dress or a little girl (“¡Qué linda!”), but it can also be used in general to mean “cute.” My little Monkey holding hands with his Daddy while walking down the street? ¡Qué lindo!
Stroller: Coche (KOH-chay) – You will want to double check this one depending on where you are, since in some places coche is used for “car.”
Diapers: Pañales (Pahn-YALL-es) – A word that comes in very handy when out shopping, as in “Where are the pañales?? We’re almost out!”
Wipes: Toallitas or Toallitas húmedas (Toe-ah-YEE-tahs OO-may-dahs) – Again, fairly essential if you need to do any shopping for supplies when you’re traveling. Literally it means “little moist towels,” which is pretty accurate!
Water: Aguita (Ah-GWEE-tah) – “Wait a minute,” you’re saying. “I thought the Spanish word for water was agua. It’s the one word in Spanish I know! (Other than taco and burrito, of course).” You are absolutely right, except that I have never heard someone offer a child water to drink without using the cuter, diminutive form of agua. (Just as when chica becomes chiquita or Señora becomes señorita). “Have some aguita, sweetheart. It’s hot outside today!”
Tea: Te (Teh) – Okay, so maybe most toddlers don’t drink tea, but what can I say? My little Monkey loves it!
Crumbs: Borones (Bow-ROWN-es) – This was one that I learned for the first time this year. Thanks to my little Monkey’s enthusiastic eating of the good foods his grandmother and aunts made, it seemed like I had reason to talk about crumbs at least once a day. As you may know, toddlers are not known for neat eating habits!
Mess: Reguero (Reh-GAIR-oh) – This is usually in the sense of a spill, as in rice or liquid. Another word I used a lot on our trip. “He does well feeding himself, but it’s always un reguero!”
Yuck: Guácala (WAH-kah-lah) – I suspect that this is a word that varies greatly from region to region. I love it, because it feels in your mouth just like what you are trying to express. I have trouble saying it without making a face. “Don’t put that in your mouth, little Monkey! It just fell on the floor. ¡Guácala!”
Car: Carro (CAR-row – Roll the “r” if you can). My little Monkey had so much fun playing with his cousin’s carros during our visit!
Firetruck: Camión de bomberos (Cahm-YON day bom-BEAR-ohs) – My little Monkey loves firetrucks, so we used this phrase a lot!
Dog: Perro (PEAR-oh). Our relatives had several little dogs that, thankfully, were used to being patted and tugged by little hands. And what sound does a dog in Costa Rica make? Not “woof-woof,” as in the US, but “wow-wow”!
What vocabulary did you learn when you became a parent?