Tuesday, March 20, 2007

English peeking up...When Dutch isn't Dutch!

Few days ago I overheard Milo singing by himself: “…Mister mamma… uduiufinkuaaaaah…”
It took me a couple of amusing seconds to figure out that he was mimicking me singing:
“Mister Milo…who do you think you are,” a parody itself of the great Aretha tune ‘Mr. Bigstuff.’

Milo is becoming increasingly aware of languages, and interested in the English he hears spoken between mum and dad. I have been wondering if this would not be a good time to introduce English more systematically, since he’s showing curiosity; he often repeats what we say, when he manages to decode it:

  • “Zeno woke up” he kept on saying this morning, after he heard me announcing it to the Belgianite.
  • “It’s ready!” he repeats every night, after I bring dinner to the table.

Somehow I think I should leverage off his curiosity, but I don’t want to add too much to the plate either. For the moment I let him fish for sounds and words and expressions.

A few months back I begun naming languages for him; up until then we had been using expressions like: "Mamma says cane and papa says hond; the nanny says chien..." One day I finally set the record straight:

"Milo: Mamma parla Italiano, e papa' parla Olandese” (Mum speaks Italian, while Dad speaks Dutch)

This statement caused a family riot, as the Belgianite jumped on his horses and almost got offended at the 'olandese' part. He immediately corrected me:
"No, I speak Nederlands."

What followed was a complex conversation:

Me: “Yes, but Nederlands in Italian is Olandese, just like in English you say Dutch.”

Belgianite: "You don't understand! Holland is a region of the Netherlands, and so Olandese, as you say it, is a dialect. In Flanders, as well as the offical language of the Netherlands is Nederlands."

Me: “But there is no equivalent in Italian! We still would say Olandese. Although, in French for instance you’d say Neerlandais, now that I think of it.”

Belgianite: “Can’t you say 'neerlandese' ?”

Me: “No in Italian it is Olandese, I’m sure. You’re gonna have to explain Milo the distinction with Nederlands in Dutch.”

At this point Milo, who has been following the ping-pong match among his parents, intervened in my favor:

"Papa, tu parli olandese!!! Ooooh!!" (you speak Dutch, and that’s it!)



Alice in Austria said...

VERY interesting! Now I learned something. In German everyone also always says 'Holländisch' when referring to Dutch, but it seems that this is incorrect and we should be saying 'Niederländisch,' if we want to be politically correct, right? I'm also confused about where Flemish comes in. It refers just to Belgium or also to parts of the Netherlands?

Clo said...

Flemish is the adjective for both the people and the dialect spoken in the Flanders, which is a region of Belgium where they speak NEDERLANDS (FOR GOD's SAKE!). As opposed to the Wallons, from the Belgian region Wallonia, where they speak French. Sounds complicated...but it isn't, really!

Erica said...

I can also confirm to your husband that you are absolutely right, in Italian you can only say Olandese and that's it.

And there is nothing we can do about that :)

santi said...

Cannot help but to smile reading your pingpong discussion. I've heard this argument between a French and a Dutch where the Dutch thought the term 'holland' is completely misleading.

Anonymous said...

Ciao Clo,
Sono lieto di vedere che il tuo blog è un molto più vivo di quando l'ho lasciato l'ultima volta.

Milo and Erica may agree with you, but my Boch dictionary prefers "Neerlandese" as a translation of the noun "Néerlandais"!
It's the word that linguists generally use, although I admit I have never heard out of books and websites!

Guillaume said...

Ciao Clo,
Sono lieto di vedere che il tuo blog è un molto più vivo di quando l'ho lasciato l'ultima volta.

Milo and Erica may agree with you, my Boch dictionary prefers "Neerlandese" as a translation of the noun "Néerlandais"!

It's the word that linguists generally use, although I admit I have never heard it from a non-linguist!

Clo said...

From Wikipedia: "Una traduzione italiana più precisa di Nederlands sarebbe lingua neerlandese, anche se questo termine viene usato molto raramente..." CHAPEAU! I admit I had no idea...Erica, I'm afraid we'll have to eat our hats!!!

giovanni said...

En la estación de Groningen dicen al tren que viene de más allá de Zwolle: de trein uit Holland. In the west of the Netherlands there are two provinces called Holland, Noord-Holland and Zuid-Holland. I live in Noord-Holland, in Amsterdam, pronounced amsterdam and not emsterdem, and I am born in Zuid-Holland, in 's-Gravenhage (Den Haag, La Haye, The Hague).
In Spanish I always simply refer to holandés. Lo stesso in italiano. Et en français? Hollandais ou Néerlandais, ça m'est égale.
Demain j'irai à Paris, avec ma femme, et si quelqu'n me demande : D'où venez-vous ? je lui répondrai : Je viens de la Hollande. J'espère que ne sera pas ton mari (the Belgianite) qui me demande cela... though it might result in a nice conversation between two Dutch-speaking neighbours, one coming from Vlaanderen and the other from Noord-Holland.
Un abrazo para los dos, no, los cuatro!
Saluti di Giovanni

Juliet said...

Complicated business. hehe Milo is an early learner to know to stick up for the woman. LOL

Gabriel said...

I had to look it up, but apparently in Spanish we can say "Neerlandes", which honestly I have never ever heard in my life. We often refer to the country as Holanda and to the language as Holandes. Although, I have also heard the name of the country referred to as Los Paises Bajos.
I also wanted to say that I enjoy reading your blog. My wife and I are soon expecting are own little MTK :) - I am originally from Venezuela and a native Spanish speaker, my wife originally from Kazakhstan and a native Russian speaker living in the States.

Clo said...

Giovanni, you're the most openminded of all Dutch! Bring your raincoad this weekend in Paris, it's gonna rain....we're going to Le Touquet, to catch it better!!!

Juliet, these are some of the few advantages of being the mums of boys!

Gabriel, bienvenido! And good luck with the arrival of your MTK! Have you decided on a family language strategy? I'd love to hear more about how you're gonna deal with your 3 languages, you can email me at multitonguekids@yahoo.com

Lilian said...

This is a great conversation that you're sharing with us!! In Portuguese we say "holandês" as well... for the "Dutch language" or NEDERLANDS... :)

About this issue of naming languages, I started doing it since they were babies. Of course my youngest, who is 2 and 9 months (today!) is only starting to figure out that there is Portuguese and English... but I guess my oldest was much more sensitive and noticed the different languages much much earlier. I have to look at my old journals, but I think he was able to identify when English and Portuguese were being spoken he when was quite young, maybe even at 18-24 months.

But then, there was a very big distinction between the two -- he didn't really understand English, we never spoke it to him at home (and that's where he was 90% of the time and only went out with us).

Oh, and I loved it that Juliet pointed out that he sided with you and you remarked that it was one of the good things about raising boys! YAY!!

Martina said...

Che forza Clo, mi hai fatto ridere con questo post!

Fantastic, Clo, it's a very fun post this of yours :-)

Kisses to you and Milo from Roma