Friday, December 14, 2007

Milo's first letter to Santa

Caro Babbo Natale,

quest'anno sono stato bene, ho giocato, ho fatto tante belle cose; poi tu vieni a mi comprare tutte le cose perche' Zeno non puo' avere dei cadoci, e' troppo piccolo e li puo' rompere, i giocattoli, Babbo Natale.

Puoi entrare da 3 camini, se vuoi puoi passare da quello nella nostra cameretta.

Per favore, Babbo Natale, io vorrei tre cose: 1 barca, 1 mappamondo, e 1 calendario di Cars. Puoi portare un Peter Pan a Zeno?
E vorrei anche un Spiderman per Mamma e Papa' , Babbo Natale.

Buon viaggio, salutaci le renne, e grazie mille che mi porti 3 cadoci per me e 1 Peter Pan per Zeno.

Milo (3 and 1/2)


Dear Santa,

this year I've been well, I played and I did many great things. Then you come to get us all the toys, because Zeno cannot have presents yet: he's too tiny and he can break the toys, Santa.

We have 3 fireplaces you can enter from; if you wish, you can use the one in my room.

Please Santa, I'd like 3 things: 1 boat, 1 worldplan and 1 Cars calender.

Can you please bring a Peter Pan for Zeno? and also a Spiderman for Mum and Dad, Santa.

Have a nice trip, say "Hi" to the raindeers, and thank you very much for bringing 3 gifts for me and 1 Peter Pan for Zeno.


Monday, December 10, 2007

MTK generation

This weekend we met up with Milo's godfather, who's Flemish and married to a Turkish woman; they live in Belgium, and their 5 years old daughter Dilara is also growing up trilingual (Dutch, Turkish and French), while starting English at school. They've been a great case study, giving us confidence in our multilingual project! Unfortunately this past year we haven't managed to meet as often as we'd like, but Milo and Dilara are good friends and were happy to see each other. I observed the interaction attentively; Milo takes his tame to warm up in this type of situations. At first he would not utter much, he'd reply with his head to questions in Dutch, to signal 'yes' or 'no'. But as the day unfolded, the two little rascals begun a curious exchange in..both Dutch and French! I'd say Dilara was mainly solicitating Milo in Dutch and he was mainly solicitating Dilara in French. But they had no trouble in communicating and come up with all sorts of tricks! Among the parents we were using Dutch (the fathers among themselves), French (me and Dilara's mum) and English (me and Dilara's dad); was some how this influencing Milo's choice of language? Does he associate French with playing? He did speak Dutch as well, mainly to his beloved godfather. I just can't help but smiling thinking that in 10 years Milo and Dilara will be able to choose among French, Dutch and English to communicate and will probaly use all three depending upon the situation and the mood.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Regarding Sinterklaas and a fascinating test

One of the undiscussed advantages of a trans-national family is that every month there is something to celebrate, coming from une culture or another! Today is Sinterklaas in Belgium and the Netherlands; tonight we will sing along the rhyme below while we will set the little shoes by the fireplace, before going to bed, hoping that Sinterklaas will fill them with sweets...

Sinterklaas Kapoentje
Gooi wat in mijn schoentje,
gooi wat in mijn laarsje
dank u, Sinterklaasje.

Nicholas I beg of you
Drop into my little shoe
Something sweet or sweeter,
Thank you, Saint and Peter

Although I love this tradition and the Sinterklaas figure (who's none but the ancestral figure of Saint Nicholas, hence Santa Klaus's grandfather), I am always a little wary of the illustrations featuring Zwarte Piet, Sinterklaas' morish helper. In this day in age, should we start censoring traditions and bed-stories and make them politically correct? I would instinctively not think so, but then again, I just read something that might change my mind: the Belgianite has recently given me a fascinating book called "Blink," by Malcolm Gladwell. One chapter introduces the The Implicit Association Test (IAT) , a mind-blowing experiment developed by Harvard University, to measures implicit attitudes and beliefs that people are either unwilling or unable to report. One of the tests associates images of white and/or black people to words which belong to either 'good' or 'bad' categories. Testers are asked to respond rapidly to different sets of associations, and the categories are alternatively associated to the white or the black race. It turnes out that 75-80% of self-identified Whites and Asians taking the test, show an implicit preference for racial White relative to Black. In other words, as Gladwell brilliantly puts it, even if we do not consider ourselves racist, we are somehow wired or brainwashed to associate negative words, sentiments, elements to black people, as well as the good ones to the white race.
One of the items that the test measures is also the attitude toward uniculturalism and multiculturalism. Similarly, pictures of multicultaral and unicultural groups are showed alternativel together with the category 'good' and 'bad', and a series of words have to be associated accordingly. I took the test confidently, thinking that my passion for multilingualism and multiculturalism would certainly have defeated any trick that those Harvard brains could have come up with. And sure enough, the astonishing response was:

" Your data suggest a moderate automatic preference for Unicultural compared to Multicultural. The interpretation is described as 'automatic preference for Multicultural' if you responded faster when items representing Multicultural and Good were classified with the same key than when items representing Unicultural and Good were classified with the same key. Depending on the magnitude of your result, your automatic preference may be described as 'slight', 'moderate', 'strong', or 'little to no preference'.

I invite you to take the test as well, and let me know what do you think about this. As for me, I'm just hoping Sinterklaas will leave me some more open mindness in my shoes tonight...

Monday, December 03, 2007

The war against English

It was an interesting weekend form the linguistic point of view. First Milo officially forbid me to speak to him in French, which I do mainly when we are around French people. Sometimes at home I would sing along some of the French songs, and somehow he does not like my accent in French!

Then during the day he spoke English randomly...while drawing together with his Dad he suddenly shouted: "I do it!" He often simply picks up on my conversation with the Belgianite and then replicate the word at will, but very pertinently.

He heard me saying: "Amore, do you want to jump in the shower?" and he immediately mimicked me: "Amoooone, du-yu-wanna-jump-inna-shawah?" , and then he asked me in Italian: "Che cos'e' jump-inna-shawah?" I explained him and he then looked at me pensively and asked me if I just took a shower, and if I actually have been jumping in it!

Later in the day he managed to interrupt yet another conversation I was having in English with the Belgianite, and he tolds us straight out: "In Italianooo, per favore, parlate in Italiano!"
We had to address it. I asked him in Italian if he was bugged by the fact that he did not understand English, and he sais 'yes.' I proposed him to teach him English, but this time he was less inspired. I asked him if he'd prefer us speaking in French at home, and he enthusiastically said YES. We told him that from time to time we'd make an effort, but that he could learn English very easily and that would allow him to communicate and play with many more kids. He wasn't impressed.