Monday, January 25, 2010

My new Dutch tutor!

It was bath time ("bagnetto time") last weekend, and, out of the blue, Milo addressed me in Dutch:
"Brrr...mijn pijama is koud! Waarom heb je het niet op de radiator gelegd, mama?"
It was one of those shivering moments, when you realize something eventful is taking place but you are not quite sure what exactly,  nor why! I kept my cool, I looked behind my shoulder to check if, by any chance, he was addressing anyone else, but no: it was just me and him in the room! I had somewhat understood what he had said: the pajama was cold, why didn't I put it on the radiator, as I usually do in the winter months?
Bemused, I quickly tried to come up with an answer in Dutch, but simply did not have the words.
So I replied in Italian:
"Non lo so, tesoro, me ne sono dimenticata..." (I don't know, I forgot about it - I know, pretty damn dull!)
Milo insisted: "Volgende keer, vergeet het niet, alsjeblieft!" (next time don't forget, please!)
The little dude was obviosly in provocaton mode: the honey-combed voice confirmed my suspicions!
 I took a deep breath and tried my very best guttural sounds:
"Waarom spreche Nederlands met mama, kleine sloeber?!" (Why are you speaking Dutch to me, little rascal?)
"Ik weet het niet...dat is zo!" (I don't know..I feel like it)
"Si, ma se poi io non ti capisco?! Come la mettiamo?!" (What if I don't understand you?)
"Ik zal het je leren!" (Don't worry: I will teach you!)

And right there I felt my heart sqeezing with joy, pride, surprise, it was an unbelieveble milestone of (multilingual) parenting that I will never forget! I should have just hugged Milo right there and savor the moment, I should have known better that silence is gold, sometimes...

...instead, I had to add:
"Vuoi davvero che impari l'Olandese, eh?" (You really want me to learn Dutch, don't you?)
To which he replied , angel-like, still in Dutch:
"Papa heeft Italiaans geleerd!" (Papa has learnt Italian!)

That's when I made a mental note to never, ever forget to warm up his pajama again!


giovanna said...

just great!

Marta said...

Hi! I've just discovered your blog while looking for bilingualism blogs. Congrats, it's interesting and fun! Oh, and your son's name sounds as one of my favourite singers, a Belgian called Milow :)

Rachel said...

made me smile!

giovanna said...

Ciao !
Volevo informarti di un passaggio cruciale per mia figlia! Improvvisamente ha cominciato a distinguere le lingue e quando siamo tutti e tre si rivolge a me in italiano e poi traduce in olandese a suo padre. Siamo pieni di orgoglio! A 25 mesi Aislin ha passato un nodo cruciale, anche grazie a te e ai tuoi consigli (e al tuo esempio che mi ha dato voglia di perseverare). Grazie!

Clo said...

Giovanna, sho happy for you! Great news! We should hook up soon and see in what language Aislin, Milo and Zeno choose to play in!

Marta, thanks for stopping by! I did not know Milow, I'm cheking them out.

Rachel, good to see you back! I love your pictures, by the way!

she_the_founder said...

Its great to see you posting again. I checked despite feeling like there would be no updates and was pleasantly surprised.

Can you write a little more about the Two Brothers in the Anthem thing? I dont understand, did you change the words for them or is the song just about Two Brothers and they think that it applies to them?

You should probably go ahead and make the effort to learn the Dutch, at least enough to converse around the house on a day to day basis so that Mr. Milo will be apeased. I hope he one day writes a book on his experiences growing up with 4 languages.

I find my interest peeked in Dutch when I read back over some of your entries, it seems like English, with word order and some similar vocabulary, but what do I know?

I take Spanish at school and while I'm learning the grammar pretty well (in theory) I find I cant even get out a "Buenos Diaz" in a practical situation...

Any tips for how you tackled learning your first language when you were in College?

Its one of my dreams to raise my children with multiple languages, but so far I'm struggling to break through the monolingual barrier.

You're my hero, for undertaking such a thing and keeping such fine records. I wish you'd update a little more but I understand about life taking over completely.

P.S. How did you learn French?

Clo said...

The Italian National Anthem starts by saying: "Fratelli d' Italia..." which means 'brothers of Italy'. As my kids are too small to grasp the patriotic connotation of the lyrics, they think that it's a song about 2 brothers from Italy, like themselves!

You are right, I should take a Dutch course....but then I would not have ANY more time to blog!!!

You are also right in noticing the similarities between Dutch and English , they are both Germanic languages amd the roots are strikingly similar. VEry often the words are exactly the same, just pronounced differently. HAving said that, it takes a while to exercise the hear to pick up on first Dutch sounds very different!

As per learning languages as an adult, I think 2 factors are essentials: motivation and opportunity. I learnt English in college at age 19, the hard way: I attended an American college, and I was the ONLY Italian student! Hence I had no choice, I had to learn English to survive!! Spanish and French have been always in "my ears" and they are very similar to Italian (again, same romance root). When I first moved to Paris 9 years ago I spoke very little French. Day-to-day life and my job have forced me once again to make the necessary efforts (listen, accept to be corrected, ask friends and colleagues to correct me if I made mistakes, force myself to engage in conversations in French,force myself to write emails in French, watch FRench movies etc.) to become fluent. The fact that the average French is reluctant to speak any other language but French was of great help too!

Thank you for your compliments, I must say that I have been lucky as I enjoy tremendously this aspect of the parenthood journey and it just happened to me!

I wish you great luck with your language studies, but you seem very determined: all you need is the opportunity. Find someone to practice with!

she_the_founder said...
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she_the_founder said...


Its a pretty useful resource for Dutch. I think it will be really helpful for someone like yourself. Its 100% free and I bet you have synthecized some of these concepts yourself from living with the Belganite and the Boys.

P.S. Just curious, does your family know you keep this blog on them?

Monica said...

AH! Allora non sono sola in questa battaglia linguistica con una lingua impossibile comel'olandese!
Italiana, vivo in Spagna (a Barcellona dove usano volentieri anche il catalano oltre allo spagnolo), sposata con un olandese nostra figlia di 8 anni va a una scuola americana dall'età' di 3 anni. In casa parliamo 4 lingue e Lydia e' cresciuta con 3 fino dai primi mesi: io Italiano, il padre olandese e la tata (ormai parte della famiglia, perché entrambi lavoriamo) spagnolo con qualche canzone e battuta in catalano: essere almeno bilingue a Barcellona non é niente di straordinario.
A scuola la maggior parte dei bambini sono almeno tri-lingue, i bambini o anche i professori che arrivano parlando "solo" l'inglese vengono considerati dal resto un pó limitati e da aiutare!
Certo ogni tanto si fa confusione, ma é difficile che Lydia in qualsiasi situazione non trovi qualcuno con cui comunicare o giocare! Forza e coraggio! It is a lot of fun!

Clo said...

She, thanks so much for the tutorial! I promise I will start with this!

Monica, benvenuta e grazie per la tua testimonianza! In effetti e' moklto piu' "multiculturale" che Parigi! Una domanda: ma tu, l' Olandese, l'hai imparato?!

Nav said...
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Nav said...

Just stumbled on your blog through google. It's so interesting to read your experiences with multiple languages. Ours is a multi-lingual family too but I & my hubby come from the same country. Between the two of us we speak four languages - English, Hindi, Telugu, Malayalam. I have a question for you: What language do you think in when you are not conversing? Is it your mother-tongue or is it someother lang ? Am curious..