Our home is a multilingual one; and I must say that it keeps things very interesting.
There’s the obvious and most used English language that we use all the time. Then my husband and I speak Filipino to each other, and are slowly teaching the girls little words and phrases. There’s also the occasional Spanish phrases and words here and there. I comprehend the language since I took over 14 years of lessons (and somewhere in my blood there is a drop of Spanish heritage), but I need practice. I can get us around enough in Spain for us not to get lost, but everyone would know that I was a tourist (There is a lag between when a Spanish sentence is spoken to me and when I can respond). Dora and Diego also are our regular Spanish teachers and even I pick up a few new words and phrases now and then.
Then there’s Chinese. Sam’s school hired a Chinese teacher, Miss Hua, to give the kids lessons every Friday. Ms. Hua has approached me several times already to tell me that Sam is a super Chinese learner. Sam has also taken a liking to the Ni-Hao Kailan show and repeats the words and phrases she learns from there. As a result, I try to learn them too. I don’t mind; my brother speaks Mandarin and maybe one day he and Sam can have simple conversations together.
Generally when it comes to languages, it’s a case of us the adults speaking it better than the girls so we can teach it to them. I learned that there are various benefits in teaching children multiple languages, so I encourage it at home. Sometimes I let Sam pick up the context of what I’m trying to say.
But the more interesting ones are the ones Sam speaks fluently, or the ones that she and Elie make up (I’ve heard only twins do that!). They speak to each other in what sounds like gibberish, but somehow they can run a conversation back and forth and keep it going with a matching dance or some actions. Helene and I ask each other quite often what this or that may mean, and both of us are confused and amused!
Sam also likes to play a lot of pretend games (as would a normal imaginative three-year old), and a lot of the times we are monkeys or birds or butterflies – you get the drift. “But they don’t speak english,” Sam says to me, and proceeds to sputter out tweets, or neighs, or oooh-ooh-ahhhs as we act out whatever group of animals we are at the moment.
Often times the game carries on past it’s actual intended time and while I turn back into a Mom, she still remains a bird. “Tweet tweet twe-tweeet tweet. Tweet?! Tweeeeet!” she’ll chirp out repeatedly expecting me to understand. And that in turn becomes our next guessing game, what is it she’s trying to say. A long “tweeeeeet!” with a smile and a nod really means a yes and a short staccato-like “tweet” is no.
I will admit it can get very hard on the ears when it goes on the whole day, particularly in the car when we try to carry out conversations to pass the time and all I hear is, “Meow meow meeeooowie meow. Meow!” or and excited burst of “Squeeeak! Squeeeak! Squeeeak!” with a finger pointing out the window. It’s supposed to mean “Look I saw an airplane!” — I think. Sometimes. Or, “please pass my milk.”
Growing up I remember my friends and I would speak the “P” language (where you add a p in between every syllable) or Horse language (where you add “tigidig” between syllables) – I suppose it is the same concept for younger toddlers. I know we do that in Kindermusik too as sometimes Rebecca has us singing / barking / purring / tweeting hello every now and then. It’s fun, entertaining, and of course interesting, and it keeps my mind alert as I need to translate and interpret based on context (We don’t want a squeaking toddler mouse to get frustrated after all).
Well — at least Sam knows her animal sounds by heart, and has a great interest in animals too. And, if it’s a sign that Sam is a smart, imaginative child… then carry on I say. As always my husband and I are happy animal accomplices and we bounce and bark and chirp on command.
And so with that I say to you: “Buzzity buzz buzz buzzzz. Buzz buzz! Buzzeee buzz!! Buzz-buzz?” 😉