Monday, November 7, 2011

English as a Multilingual Language: Part One - Chips

The Germans!  Matthew and Aidan with Levi, whose Mum also hails from Schwabenland.
IF I can EVER get a series going, this English thing should be it.

Am I raising my children bilingually?  You betcha!

We were discussing the German-thing at a friend's first birthday party recently.  I told the other parents that my kids don't listen well in at least THREE to possibly even FOUR languages.

In addition to ignoring me in English and German,  the kids refuse to cooperate in French and Spanish as well.  (And the school is wondering why the twins need speech therapy for English!)

They should at least be able to understand "I don't know.",  "I don't understand." and "I am very very tired." in French.  Just rolls off the tongue.

The twins!  Thomas and Lachlan as Hawaians.

Why is it that they haven't picked this up,  I asked rhetorically.

To which Ryan replied, in a halfway decent accent, "Je ne sais pas."

Wise - ass.

Turns out the twins will deign to understand German as well, when it is something that it is in their best interests to understand.  Not just , "Get into bed now before I turn you into a Weiner-Schnitzel" but also dessert choices and whether or not they would like to turn on the Fernseher.

Thanks to the forty-five minute carride to riding on Saturday afternoons, I've got them singing more that Shakira songs in Spanish.  So that if the need ever arises, when we visit Spain, to point to their ears, eyes and nose, they will be on top of it.

Then three of us will be able to excuse ourselves in Cantonese.

The Americans!  Jack as an Eskimo, with two American Indians and a Hawaian.
We've got summer vacation coming up and will be homeschooling again.  More as a form of crowd control than as a need for more knowledge.  I thought about adding baby sign language to the roster.  Because nothing was more fun the first time around than two babies animatedly pointing to their mouths and demanding to be fed.

But this English thing is completely baffling.

Take Friday night, at Andrew's baseball game, when Aidan came over to ask if they could buy chips. 

"Chips.  Why sure honey.  How much are they?"  I asked.  (I do admit freely to bribing them with their weekly allotment of coca-cola and sweets in order to get them to consent to being dragged to their older siblings' sports activities.)

"And what kind of chips do you mean?"   You only get this kind of question from an American mother.

Bob as cowboy.  AMERICAN cowboy.

Aidan looked completely dumb-founded.  He meant the chips they'd had at school. 

"Do you mean potato chips, chips or do you mean French fries, chips?" I elaborated.


(Having never lived in America, or spent much time with Americans besides Damon and I,  it shouldn't come as a shock that American terms don't mean much to my children either, but somehow it always is.  Even in English, my children are often learning a different language than my native American.)

"Pommes frites?"  I tried in German.  And French.

Still nothing.

"We call the potato chips "crisps"  in Scotland."  Help from the crowd that was listening in on this rather interesting - and amusing- exchange.

It's A Small World, as demonstrated by the Preps.

"Would you like crisps, love?  Or chips?"  (Great.  Now we'd added ANOTHER English language into the mix.)

As if poor Aidan hadn't made himself clear.

"Hot or cold?"  a friend continued.


As in chips.

Andrew poses for his biggest fan!

The disgusted look on Aidan's face by the end of this exchange was plain to interpret.

Was he not making himself clear?

Was Mommy going to be needing medication?

Can we really call ourselves multilingual when we can't even understand eachother in English?!

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