Thursday, June 26, 2008

Watermelon qui pro quo...

Walking home from school in a warm mid-june afternoon:

Me: Cosa avete mangiato oggi a pranzo? (What did you have today for lunch?)
Milo: Il pollo, il riso e la pastecca, ma non l'ho mangiata, non mi piace. [Chicken, rice and pastecca (from the French 'pasteque') but I did not eat it, I don't like it.]
Me: Si dice anguria... (We say watermelon)
Milo: Quale? (What?)
Me: In Italiano si dice 'anguria,' non pastecca. (In Italian we say watermelon and not pastecca)
Milo: Ma si, la pastecca! (Wathever, pastecca!)
Me: Ti piace dire pastecca? Ti piace quella parola? (Do you like saying pastecca? you like the sound of that world?)
Milo: Ma no, ma se ti ho detto che non l'ho mangiata che non mi piace!!!! (But Mum, I just told you: I did not like it and I did not eat it!)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Language of Love

Milo: "Mamma, ho detto thank you a papa', ma non sono innamorato di lui!!!"
[I said thank you (in English) to papa, but I'm not in love with him].

Friday, June 06, 2008

Should I learn Dutch?

When I first met the Belgianite at an international media conference in Cannes, France, we spoke English to each other, the only language in each’ linguistic arsenal we shared. It remained our common language over the years.

We moved to France a few years later and I had to work hard to improve my very rustic French. I can now say I feel much more comfortable and can proudly declare myself fluent in French as well; the Belgianite was already fluent in French when we met, but somehow we use this language only socially, when in presence of other franco-phones, out of politeness; as he often says, we don’t recognize each other in French!

When Milo was born we decided to adopt the OPOL method; so I begun speaking more Italian at home to Milo and the Belgianite unveiled his Nederlands-spoken persona, while keeping English for each other. Thanks to his French basis, personal acumen, constant exposure to me speaking to Milo and encouragement from my family, the Belgianite achieved also a pretty good understanding and fluency in Italian; you’d think that it would gradually become the family language, but the Belgianite is a jazzy cat, no pop material, and so, as much as he is captivated by the Italian language, culture and lifestyle, he does not like speaking Italian with me, for the same reason that we fell in love with each others’ English speaking facet (...and/or for fear of being corrected when making mistakes?). However, Milo quickly grasped on his fluency and sometimes addresses his dad in Italian (mainly out of lazyness, when he does not know the corresponding vocabulary in Dutch); the funny thing is that the Belgianite does not realizes that on these occasions he replies in Italian!

I never really needed to learn Dutch, in the sense that during trips to Belgium and with the Belgianite’s friends and family I can communicate easily using French and English; and even when I would tease the Belgianite and ask him to teach me the bad or loving words in Dutch, he never really felt at ease or particularly motivated. To this day, I still have to hear an
“Ik houd van u” (I love you): I never got it in Dutch! And when I did whisper that to him, he replied with a smirk: “You sound weird.” (I told you he’s atypical! That does not mean that he’s not affectionate, on the contrary, but curiously he does not like to use any other language but English with me).

I instinctively find Dutch a difficult language, with many unfamiliar guttural sounds and little common roots with any of the other languages I speak; I tried several times to actively learn vocabulary using some kid books we have that labels pictures in both Dutch and French, but got discouraged by terms such as 'gelukkige verjaardag' ( happy birthday, try singing that without twisting your tongue), 'vreugde' (joy), 'brandweerlieden' (fire men), to name a few…
Nevertheless, daily exposure and repetition worked wonders, forging a very useful mini-baby vocabulary which I manage to use with the monolingual toddlers each time with meet up with Belgian friends.

So far so good with our intricated linguistic arrangement….however, Milo is developing quite fast his Dutch fluency and I realize now that when he has a lenghty conversation with friends or the Belgianite, I grasp less and less. I hate having to ask: "What did he say?", he being my very own son! I mean, the way things are I’m headed to miss out on about 30% of my son(s) verbal output in the coming years and I don’t like it.

On the other hand I wonder if the kids would appreciate it at this stage: I still remember a few months back I once addressed Milo in Dutch saying one of those little sentences I know: 'zit je niere op je poop' (sit well on your butt); he looked at me in disbelief, his look meaning something along the lines of: "Are you totally insane? What the heck are you doing, you awful OPOL betrayer?!?!” He clearly was not amused by it.

So here is the big question: should I set myself to formally learn Dutch, once and for all?
The poll for my dear readers is open on the right-end side bar, feel free also to express your opinion in the comments section. Tot straks (catch you later)…