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!

7 comments:

Alice in Austria said...

Way to go, Milo!! Very fascinating to read about his development! I. does some very similar things which I sometimes forget to record, and when I want to blog about it I can't remember. She keeps wanting to speak English with her German-speaking friends lately, though .. which I take is a good sign!?!? ;)

giovanni said...

Wonderful, amusing and I am curious about more invented words, either in pronounciation or nice mixtures. Besides words it's also different cultures he is getting to know, to his benefit I think. And he learns to be creative. It's funny to see that you yourself get so familiar with Dutch that you say de hamer.
Tot gauw, hoop ik, want ik vind je verhalen zo mooi.
Saluti

santi said...

Milo is just amazing! I cannot wait to read how Zeno and Milo interact in those 3 languages! I'm expecting my 2nd child *will due end march* and very curious about how my trilingual kids would communicate at home.

Juliet said...

That was a great idea you had to totally immerse Milo! And it worked!

Brikebrok said...

Anche i miei figli parlano 3 (4)lingue, ma ... e dopo ? wouldn't they feel lost somehow ? ... ho trovato il tuo blog while I was thinking about this ...

Erica said...

I am glad you are back! Thanks for your message on my blog. It's amazing what you are teaching Milo and Zeno. I hope to be able to do the same one day. As I might have mentioned before, I am italian, my husband is German and we live in England! But we are thinking of moving to Paris in 3 years, so I am currently learning French! I hope our kids won't be too confused..but I am sure they will love the multicultural upbringing, like yours surely will!

Lilian said...

I'm sorry it took me a month to see this! What a great idea to send him on an immersion weekend so he'd improve his Dutch! It sounds like you have a your hands more than full, but I hope you can soon be back with more stories of your multilingual boys!