Albertosaurus, I can manage. T-Rex, a slam dunk and pretty much the baddest of bad asses. Stegosaurus and Triceratops begin to push it a bit. Quetzalcoatlus? Forget it, I give up.

Photo by PK + Koduri

Photo by PK + Koduri

I postulate (based solely on anecdotal evidence) that childhood obsession with dinosaurs is a quintessentially American thing. To a Colombian parent trying to raise his children bilingually, this obsession makes for hours of educational entertainment, but it’s also a huge linguistical challenge (“Hypsilophodon”, really? cut a guy some slack!).

Not only do I have to read out loud these mouthfuls to my kid about a hundred times a day, but I have to pause and face this ethical dilemma: Do I bother to figure out the Spanish names for these creatures, beyond the obvious and romance-language-friendly “Brontosaurio” and “Tiranosaurio”?

What’s ironic about this hole thing is that (I believe) most dinosaur names are derived from Latin, so (I believe) you can pretty much replace “saurus” with “sauro” and “ph” with “f” and you got yourself a whole catalog of Spanish names for these monsters. But by the time I figure out how to break out 23 syllables to speak the name of one of these, my boys have already turned the page to a meaner-looking reptile with horns on its tail and tongue (and even horns on its horns).

Don’t get me wrong, playing with dinosaur toys, reading dinosaur books, and watching dinosaur videos are great opportunities for discussing nature and science (and for inoculating my boys against the incursion of Creationist ideas) in a fun, interactive way, not to mention I’m actually learning stuff I didn’t learn as a child. But it does exemplify the compromises you have to make in order to have a flowing, natural relationship with your children in the little time you have with them every day. Google on the iPhone have been lifesavers for me when I find myself in a pinch and need to look up how to say “blueberry” in Spanish. But pausing five times on every page to try and translate the names of dinosaurs would be hugely disrupting and it would take the fun out of just learning who was eating whom during the Jurassic period.

Now, if one of my boys chooses to become a paleontology professor in a Latin American university, then perhaps we can sit down together and pour over volume after volume of dinosaur literature in Spanish. Or I can sit paralyzed by anxiety over whether they’ll make enough money to live on and repay their student loans. That’s parenting for ya.

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