Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Language

Sroch was walking Llama down the steps on shabbos (or maybe it was yuntiv day number one, or yuntiv day number two. Well, one of the three), and I hollered for her to take care of Llama and help her down, and Sroch hollers back -

"Don't worry, I'm saving on her."

Sigh.

For those of you, dear readers, who don't understand my sigh, a brief lesson. In Hebrew, the word 'shamor' means guard, watch, or save. Correct Hebrew grammar would have her say "shamor alaia" (Savta, feel free to correct), which if you translated it painfully literally, would be "guard on her" or as Sroch said, "saving on her."

But realize, my sigh is a happy sigh. Why? I'm not worried about her English grammatical constructs; they are already quite excellent for a child her age ("four and a HALF!") and she reads (well, we read) a ton and I think she'll be fine. No, I am delighted that her Hebrew is so good that she seeks to make English conform to it.

(This specific example may not be the best one, since lots of her friends say "saving on her" as well.)

Sroch will come home from school and tell me in great detail what she learned about the parsha or the upcoming holiday... in English. Last year's teacher spoke English as well, and I was never sure how much Sroch got from the straight Hebrew, but this year's teacher does not speak English - and Sroch not only retains it (bless her, bli ayin hara), but is fully comfortable and able to spit it back translated.

......

Llama is now in English gan, and it has been amazing to see her verbal English blossom. Because until now she was in a Hebrew metapelet situation, where there's less language because there's less instruction, as well as her being corked part of the time, her English is really taking off. That's not to say she's totally intelligible. For example, we couldn't get her to take a video (sigh), but this Rosh Hashana she sang...

"Dip da appa in da chaney, mik a bracha lauw an keer, shana toba u mesooka, ave uh appy seet new ear!"

Right! Shana tova to you too!

(Aside: tonight during her mad freak-out bedtime thing, I was singing "Down in the Valley" and when I got to end and said "valley" she stopped crying, stood up, said "chani!" (honey) and we sang the entire "Dip the Apple in the Honey" together - whereupon she finished and went right back to having a tantrum.)

She's also talking about colors a great deal - but I have no clue if she knows them, or just the words. But "yehllow" is her favorite, followed by "geen" and "puhple."

......

In the inevitable comparisons you try not to make of children and their skill acquisition, I realize the truth of what I was told back with Sroch, that Sroch was exceptionally verbal for her age, because gosh she was counting and having conversations and learning songs and saying 'Mitsubishi' (I tried getting Llama to say it - she just said "bishi" - there ya go, Micah). So I think to myself, self, Sroch was just Ahead, and Llama is Just Fine.

But then, I look back on vintage Druyanity when Sroch was this age (i.e. just short of 2) - and you know what? They're not so different at all.

The difference is - who gets spoken to.

For better or worse, most of what comes out of our mouths is directed at Little Miss Know Everything, her Highness the Elder, as opposed to the Princess Floppy Llama.

So I'm trying to make more of an effort to recall what Llama is capable of, linguistically, and speak to her accordingly. It's working too.

And I'm wondering why not a single child raising book EVER mentioned that this extra effort was necessary. Was I dumb to overlook it? Or is this the plight of all second children?

(Item: I'm a second child, and my brother's vocabulary is better than mine, but I blame his high-scoring Scrabble habits for that.)

I welcome your opinions.

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