Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Summer update

Zeno is literally exploding linguistically: on one hand he repeats almost everything he hears, in any language; on the other he is visibly trying to make sense out of his (multi)linguistic surroundings.

On his second birthday we sang 'HAPPY BIRTHDAY' in Italian, then in Dutch and finally in English (we left the French for his friends at the day-care). The next day he was singing to himself: "Atta-nanna to youuuuu, atta-nanna to youuuuuu!"

He is producing a few mixed sentences:
capelli mouillées (IT/FR)
ancora bigol (IT/DU)
merci mamma (FR/IT)
guarda Milo: cassé (IT/FR)

but also some good ones in any of his three languages:
"guarda mamma, vieni: dudu caduto!"
"pas ca, pas ca, fini!"
"piace podódoio” " (for non mi piace il pomodoro= I don't like tomatoes)
and the everlasting: "Cos'é mamma? Cos'é?" (What is it?)
"Dov'é Milo?" (Where is Milo).

His exchanges with Milo are 70% in Italian, with the rest in Dutch, if they're playing next to Papa, or in French at the park or during the day with the nanny.
Milo is clearly setting the language and deciding when to switch; Zeno tags along.

He obviously understands it all, but he is finally trying to sort each word and put it in the right linguistic basket.

Milo's encounter with another set of American friends reinforced his interest in English; they brought him some CDs with kids’ songs and we've been listening to Old MacDonald and other great classics! He made less of an effort to speak, this time, but he picked up several words and showed off a laconic thank you and goodbye a few times! I'm thinking of finding a playgroup for him in the fall, but it has to be something he can attend without me, otherwise he won't speak up.

School is over and my little MTKs are spending now their days with their new babysitter, a Franco-Spanish languages student. We could not find a better fit! She's intrigued with the Italian spoken by the kids and at the same time Milo is intrigued with her Spanish. So they feed each other language items all day long, using French as a common base. Milo has been asking me, on her days off, how we say this and that in Spanish! But yesterday, on my day off work, at some point he said full of melancholy: "I feel like speaking in French to Sofie…”

His meta-linguisitic awareness keep blowing me away: yesterday I was cleaning up the toys in the kids’ room and Milo spontaneously joined me to help; he was trying to tell me something but I was so absorbed in the task (and tired) that I did not realize I replied in English:

Milo: “ Mamma…”
Me: “…yes?”
Milo: “ Mamma!!!”
Me: “…yes?! What?”
Milo: “ Mamma: ti voglio parlare in Italiano!” (I want to speak Italian with you!)

So later I randomly asked him:
Me: “Milo pensi che ci parleremo in Inglese un giorno?” (do you think one day we’ll speak English with one another?)
Milo: “Non credo…a meno che non ci sposiamo, ma tu sei gia’ con Papa’…non possiamo sposarci.” (I don’t think so, unless we get married, which we cannot because you are with Dad)
Me: “Ma Milo, le lingue non c’entrano con l’amore…” (but languages have nothing to do with love…)
Milo: “Ma si, sposiamo le lingue!” (yes, let’s marry the languages)

I just left it at that, it was too cute and intricated to get into…It’s pretty obvious that Milo thinks that the Belgianite and I speak English because we are in love!

He’s been very playful with languages and has increasingly accepted me speaking French, to the point that we have a little game when I prepare dinner: he plays a traveller arriving in a restaurant, and I’m the French chef. So I greet him, ask him where he’s been and if he’s hungry and he tells me all about his recent trip to Italy to visit his grandparents. All this in French and with an obvious acting tone to it, both of us enjoying the role playing. Then I offer him to stay for the night, if he does not mind sharing the room with another fellow traveller, little Rascal Zeno (who in the meantime gets the gist of the travelling conversation and shows up with his back pack, thinking we are about to go somewhere!).

Apart from these occasional playful moments, Milo is strict with using Italian with me; on rare occasions he has been using French to tell me something related to school, which apparently is fairly common with bilingual kids. He code-switches automatically within the conversation. I let him express his thoughts and then I simply rephrase them in Italian, but so far it must have happened only a handful of times.


Yom said...

"Dudu" is italian? Isn't it the french word "doudou"?
I wanted to check on my dictionaries but I'm surprised not to find it.

Clo said...

Yes, it's actually "doudou" in French, but twhen they say it in Italian the pronunciation is closer to "dudu"! How are things on your multilinguistic side, Yom?