Thursday, November 29, 2007

Post 101

...I missed marking my first and my second year of blogging...but here is to my first 100 posts, to the amazing fellow bloggers I've got to know, to the whole multilingual community, and most of all to the source of my inspiration, that is my kids! Cin Cin!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Siblings talk

This weekend I tuned in to Milo and Zeno's exchanges. The Belgian grandparents were visiting, so Milo had the chance to boost up his Dutch big time: in two days he picked up a good 25 new words or so, not to mention new songs. For the fisrt time I also heard him address Zeno in Dutch, during an intricated game involving boats and commanders and other naval items. It is mainly in Italian otherwise, especially if I am around. And on some occasions, when Milo is playing by himself and is concentrated in his game, he would sometime mumble in French (perhaps repeating some of the games from kindergarden) and if Zeno wants to get involved, Milo would typically try to distance him in French.

Zeno seem to speak more clearly with us, the parents, when we solicitate a direct exchange on a specific topic. I make him repeat a lot of words when we eat, or when we read and look at pictures. With Milo the exchange is mainly very physical, he seeks his attention by stealing Milo's toys and running away, for instance. Yesterday also for the first time he tried to call Milo by his name: he woke up from the nap and I heard him from the crib calling out :" Mooooo!". Milo was rather amused. If you're interested in the subject, Suzanne Barron-Hauwaert, author of abook on OPOL and bilingual parenting, is currently researching case studies from multilingual families on siblings communications. Her blog describes her project and has a poll as well.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Back issues...

I have disappeared again, I know, and without even leaving an explanation apologies to my faithful handful fo readers, not to mention family, friends and supporters of Multi Tongue Kids. I've just been hammered with a nasty disc hernia which had me laying in bed pretty much all summer, and I'm just recovering. Not that I am trying to move you or get your empathy, but I was really unable to type (nor to think about) any post...the good news is that I took notes and I am back in action. Back with my back. And with lots of interesting insights, as Mr. Milo is now 3 and a half and has a very talkative personality, while Mr. Zeno is barely 17 months and is picking up fast the multilingual heritage!

  • Milo's French is impeccable and up-to-speed to his age level.

  • His Italian is perhaps a tiny bit more sophisticated, however he does make certain mistakes: he does not know all of the irregular past participle (he'd say prenduto instead of preso) and has an awkward use of the reflexive mode (devo mi lavare le manine). But he can entertain family and friends with pretty elaborate conversations!

  • His Dutch is lagging behind in vocabulary, and also he seems to wanting more and more speak Italian with the Belgianite. The latter is inflexible and keeps steering him back to Dutch, but Milo at one point said clearly "I prefer speaking Italian." I assume it's just a matter of (lack of) exposure, hence less motivation. In February they'll go skiing together with some Belgian friends, and that should help his Dutch to progress.

  • His understanding of English has become impressive, and he really tunes in into our conversations and then asks the meaning of words. He has expressed the desire to learn it, so I picked a children book and randomly teach him sayings , colors and a little vocabulary. We are not doing this systematically or academically, just for fun, but I imagine that the daily exposure plays quite a role in cementing the words in his memory.

  • He is aware all together of the existance of different languages and loves to learn little words or phrases in Spanish from Zeno's nanny, or in Japanese (we met a Japanese woman on a flight to Italy, recently).

Zeno, on his side is another interesting case because he not only has a mum who speaks Italian, a father who speaks Dutch, a nanny who speaks mostly French, and his parents speaking English with each other: he also has an older brother switching back and forth among all of the above. And his brother is THE main point of reference when it comes to interplay, talk, communications. He seeks tremendously his attention. Zeno has a very playful personality and is very expressive, but I have a feeling that at the same age Milo said more.

  • He says a lot of bisillabic words (Mama, Papa, Dada, Lulu, Doudou, Dodo, nonno, nonna) and a few words that he picks up here and there ( ciao ciao, seduto, uva, auto, acqua) but he does not use them systematically.
  • He recently sapent 10 days alone with his dad and he picked up several monosillabic Dutch words as well (kjek, dag).

Milo speaks to Zeno mostly in Italian and has nicknamed him Zelol, or he calls him occasionally 'Piccolino'; from time to time , when he is playing alone, Milo would switch to French and he then occasionally addresses Zeno in French as well.

The most challenging of it all, as I predicted in one of my early entries, is keeping a fluid conversation at dinner; frankly, all the switching back and forth gives me headackes. Uncounsciously, I am addressing the Belgianite more and more in Italian directly, and he oftens replies in Italian to the kids as well. So, without any preconceived strategy, it's my language which is becoming the lingua franca of this euro-puzzled family, instead of the initial equilizer, that is English. But the wind can change fast...stay tuned for more anectodes of my two little polyglots in the making!