One of my favorite things to do with my 19-month-old, Elle, is a trip to the zoo. I’m raising her speaking Spanish, so besides the fact that she loves the animals, it’s a good opportunity for us to go over some of the animals’ Spanish names we’ve seen in so many books.
A recent trip to Audubon Zoo started easy enough. The elephants (elefantes) and monkeys (monos) were easy to point out and talk about. Then we hit the petting zoo – and I realized just how far I have to go to properly raise my daughters speaking Spanish.
I was raised in a Spanish-speaking household in Miami by Cuban parents and grandparents. But having never studied Spanish in school, I have glaring gaps in my vocabulary and grammar. As we walked around the animals at the petting zoo, I struggled to come up with all the names. Sheep I knew (oveja), but drew a blank on goat. The Google Translate app on my iPhone offered ‘cabra’ for goat but that didn’t sound right. Then I remembered ‘chiva.’ Google, I’ve noticed, rarely gives the Cuban Spanish translation to words, and its suggestions need to be cross-checked with a phone call to my mom.
The rabbits were easy to point out, as we have books filled with ‘conejos’ at home. But guinea pig – no idea. Didn’t see a lot of those growing up in Miami. Google Translate suggests ‘conejillo de Indias’ for guinea pig, which is a wonderful, lyrical phrase and one I’ll probably never remember.
For other parents with bilingual kids – or those who just want to add a fun twist to a zoo trip – here’s a list of common zoo animals in Spanish, with their English translations (in parenthesis):
It’s best to try to memorize them before you head out. You miss a lot of the magic of a trip to the zoo if you’re constantly turning to your iPhone’s translator app.
¡Buena suerte! (translate)