Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The amazing wonders of built-in meta-grammatical awareness

I try to read books daily to my kids, and in a perfect world,  I should read only in Italian to them. The reality is that, when I come home after a long day at work, tired and famished, and they ask me to read one of the many French books they love from their library, I just read it in French: my brain, on certain evenings, refuses any collaboration, and if I try to simultanously translate in Italian, I sound like a foreigner! The kids don't mind it, but while Zeno keeps interrupting me with 1000 questions about the story (that is, focusing on the content of the story), Milo cannott help correcting the occasional pronunciation mistake I make (a nasal vowel, a missed liaison...).
Tonight , though, he went a step further and he simply blew me away! I was trying to read the following sentence:
"Ils entrent dans la salle..." which means they enter the room; while the final 's' is normally not pronounced in French words, in this case it needs to be pronounced because it provides a liaison which helps the listener capting the plural nature of the verb.

So I stumbled a few times around the sentence: "Il rentr...ils rentre?" and Milo shed the light for me:
"Si dice Ils rentr, mamma: se fosse stato uno solo avresti dovuto dire il rentr, ma siccome sono due..." (You read it ils rentr, mama; if it was just one person you would have read it il rentr, but since it's two persons here...).

The kid is still in kindergarden (he will turn 6 soon, and start primary school in September), and while they work a lot at school, grammar is definitely not on the program yet!
How could he come up with such a logical and grammatically oriented explanation for something he knows only by ear, in theory?
I'm stille in awe!

If you're in Paris , go DULALA!

I had posted previously about a brilliant association here in Paris organizing language playgroups for multilingual families: it was called the Association des Familles Multilingues. It recently changed name, website and enlarged its scope: it's now called D'Une Langue A L'Autre (DULALA), if you are based in Paris or simply French-spoken, take a look at their sleek website! I recently joined their Research Committee and it's great fun to interact with the founder, Anna Stevanato, a fellow Italian woman who's a linguist and specialised on bilingualism, as well as the other members.

It's exciting to see how much has changed here in Paris in the last 5 years, that is ever since I started wondering about multilingualism: not only parents have now access to a plethora of information on the web as well as associations such as the Cafe Bilingue and DULALA, but the general media is also finally recognizing the changing demographics of France's capital and are investigating on the matter. If you understand French, listen to this (very French indeed!) podcast from Europe1, one the top French news radios, entitled: "Je veux que mon enfant soit bilingue!"

Friday, April 02, 2010

An Easter kind of Carnival...

It's almost Easter, but before you dash out painting eggs with your kids and hiding chocolates for them in the garden, take the time to sit down and browse through a whole range of great blogs, and discover what's new in their multilingual venture! Welcome to the March/April 2010 issue of the Blogging Carnival on Bilingualism, initiated by Letizia, founder of Bilingual for Fun, and hosted every month by a different blog on multilingualism.

It's my first time hosting it and I truly enjoyed discovering new blogs I wasn't aware of, but especially realizing the variety of motivations and circumstances that committed all these families to a multilingual journey!

For instance, Sarah at Home Educate in Italy this month writes about the [inevitable] necessity to correct our children when they make mistakes in the minority language, and how this might hurt their sensitivity and  inhibit them to keep speaking the language. Find out how she overcame this by finding creating ways to get the message across without damaging her child' confidence: a great lesson in multilingual as well as emphatic parenting....

Smashedpea over at Intrepidly Bilingual tells us about a rather common phenomenon among young bilinguals:  her youngest child mixes a lot between English, the dominant environmental language, and German, her native language, currently being learnt also by her not-for-long monolingual husband.

Lauren at HoboMama is raising her child bilingual in English and German, while not being a native German speaker. This month she unveils her plan to be more consistent in her own learning of German, in order to summon up the courage to speak German with natives!

Jan at BabelKid considers how her daughter seems more comfortable counting in English (the environmental/school language) rather than his native German.

And German is once again the language of honor at Mummy Do That, where Steffi lists her favourite German children books.

Eve at Blogging on Bilingualism analizes the benefits and pitfalls of dual citizenship, for herself and for her children. In her case, the French/American citizenships opens up wider options for her kids' higher education.

And Sarah of Bringing Up Baby Bilingual profiles a fascinating Trinidanian English spoken family, where the mum has self taught French, and has chosen to raise their 2 year old child bilingual English/French.

Which leads to my post here below on what do we consider as a maternal language when we are raised bilingual, and how does that define our identity.

Here we have it once again: different families, in different countries, with different projects, all sharing the need or the desire to raise their kids in one or more languages. Each Carnival gives me more confidence that our children's generation will be, by sheer numbers, equipped with more tolerant leaders, more apt at dealing with the issues of the world!

Should you wish to receive updates or to host the future Carnivals, you can sign up here.
Happy Easter everyone! May the hunt begin!