Monday, February 26, 2007

Milo ramps up his Dutch!

Frustration is the name of the game: I have hundreds of episodes a week to chronicle about, and zero time to type them up and post them…here’s a brief recap of recent events!

Milo has spent a week on the Alps with his dad and some other Belgian friends (for a total of three fathers with a kid each). It’s winter school holidays season in France; I could not really take time off from work, and on top of it, I have a major hernia which is limiting my activities…but, above all, we thought that a week with Dad would be a good strategy to ramp up Milo’s Dutch, which was starting to lag behind his fluent French and Italian.

For one thing, he had figured out by now that daddy speaks and understands Italian, so most of the time he was addressing him in Italian. And even when the Belgianite would ask Milo a question in Dutch, he would reply in Italian. If invited to repeat the phrase in Dutch, he would supply to his lack of vocabulary by inserting “ye ye” in the place of (often) the verb he would not know…thus making his Dutch sentences very obscure. Alternatively, he would take the word in French or Italian and chop it short with a guttural sound: he would make the Dutch up himself! (‘de martel’ instead of ‘de hamer’; ‘de montagn’ instead of ‘de berg’).

The week went by fast, I missed him a lot! And I took advantage of my privileged time alone with little Zeno, who’s now 8 months, starts crawling and is so communicative!
We had daily telephone conversation with Milo who would tell me about the snowmen he made, or his performances on the snow, or his games with the other two Belgian girls.
Mission was accomplished: he leant how to ski, and came back with lots of new words and songs and games in Dutch! Lesson learnt: a full immersion here and there can only help.

Another interesting phenomenon is his use of Dutch when interacting with English speakers!
At this point, we still do not address him in English and he hears it passively when the Belgianite and I speak to each other. We sporadically meet with some American friends whose kids, slightly older than Milo, are bilingual (French/American). They often play in French, but I caught the girl explaining to Milo how to surf on the Disney website: she was speaking English to him (“click here, press the space bar there, right over Donald Duck, good job!”) and he would reply in Dutch – somehow he sees the link…

Yesterday when he arrived he was very happy to find Zeno back! And Zeno was also very excited that big bro had come back to liven'up the scenario…he was trying to attract his attention and showcased his first syllable sentences: "ta ta ta ta ta ta!” he screamed, right at Milo. Milo looked at me and asked: "Mamma, Zeno parla Francese?" (is Zeno speaking French?).
Hard to tell, for now!