Tuesday, January 15, 2008

New year's multilingual thoughts

We spent some time in Italy during the holidays, and Milo seemed much more relaxed than usual, as if the fact that he had to deal with just one language (the Belgianite speaks mainly Italian when we are there, even with me) released him from some tension. He picked up on a lot of vocabulary and impressed all of the family with his conversational skills!

However, he did spoke in Dutch to Zeno on a few occasions. They were pretending to be at sea and I heard Milo saying: " Kijk!, Zeno, een kleine haai!" (Look, a small shark).

He also would sing his French Xmas songs by himself from time to time. So his two other languages remained active, and at the same time he fully enjoyed the full immersion in Italian.

He's very adorable and responsible, perhaps an innate characteristic of first borns; while traveling he kept on checking on Zeno (Are you comfortable Zeno? Everyhting ok?)

Zeno on the other hand is exploding linguistically, he adds a few words every day, mainly in Italian and French. He seems to be extremely attentive to what Milo says, and repeats it all. He has a rather nasal way of pronouncing certain words, especially starting with labial sounds. I remember Milo also took some time before pronouncing correctly certain sounds, and he still does not have a rolling "r" in Italian (and probably never will):
  • he says fommaggio instead of formaggio, while in French he says impeccably fromage;
  • he has a hard time with the sound "st" (in French he'd say ouittiti instead of ouistiti, in Italian la ttazione instead of la stazione)
  • he has a hard time with the sound "sw" in Dutch (Watte Piet instead of Swarte Piet).

Zeno also has a fantastic ear for music, as soon as he hears a tune, he's gotta dance. He's the 'Happy Feet' of the family!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Meta-linguistic awareness

Milo is becoming increasingly aware of the existance of different languages, not only within his entourage. And he's curious to find out who speaks what:

  • Yesterday I was on the phone with one of his baby-sitters. Once I hung up, he asked me
    Milo: "Who was it?"
    Me: "It was Sabine."
    Milo: "She speaks French, right? She does not speak Italian..."

  • Another day:
    Milo: "Who did you have lunch with today, Mum?"
    Me: "I had lunch with my colleague Frederique"
    Milo: "Avete parlato Francese?" (Did you speak in French?)

  • The fist day of school after the holidays, on the way to school we were reviewing the nice two weeks we just had in Belgium and Italy, and Milo was keen to retell his teacher all about it; it seemed to me he was already mentally translating some of the stuff we were talking about. In fact, when I reminded him of the visit of the Befana, which on January 6th filled his sock with sweets and candies, he asked me:
  • Milo: "Come si dice Befana in Francese?" (How do you say Befana in French?)
    I had to think about it a second.
    Me: "I'm afraid it does not exist in France, Milo, you'll have to say...la Befan√°!"