Friday, April 30, 2010

Recognizing words

Now that K’s Slovak vocabulary is starting to take off, there is no telling which language any new word she says will be in. Fair enough. Even though the Slovak and I understand each other’s languages without a problem, it is still difficult to recognize a K word that may bear only passing resemblance to the real word, especially now that it could easily be in either language.

I used to be the one to recognize all her new words and "translate" them for Apo so he knew what to listen for. Even when she said something in Slovak, I would have to hit him on the arm and say, "She said havo! Let her know you heard!" before he realized what she’d said. Makes sense, since I spend all day with her.

But a couple of times recently she’s gotten me. Recently she ran upstairs to me and said, "Mama, I want obe!" and no amount of repeating clued me in until Apo came in and told me she meant obliecť sa (to get dressed). I didn’t know she knew that word! And I challenge you to get "obliecť sa" from "obe" on the first few repetitions! Now she says it all the time, though she has also learned "get dressed". Or also that same week, she said what sounded like two words, pa pot, and it took me a minute to realize that in context she must mean papať (to eat). She gets credit for trying but half a letter grade off for appalling pronunciation.

And that’s the words we WERE able to categorize. Then there are words that are impossible to determine as Slovak or English, even though it is clear what they mean. I remember the first was daki or diki (she said both), which meant thank you, at something under 18 months. But was it an attempt at English "thank you" or Slovak "ďakujem"? Or maybe "vďaka" or "díky" (both mean “thanks”)? It was really somewhere in the middle of all of them. "Biki" also came to life probably as an attempt at Slovak "bicykel" (bicycle), but that's a guess. K uses it for bikes and strollers both - pretty much anything with wheels (but no engine).

Recently we’ve also run into language mixing mid-word, like "stroms". I laughed and told her they are either trees or stromy, but definitely never stroms. You can see she is internalizing some English grammar patterns, though. And around the same time she came out with "môjn" – a perfectly logical combination of môj and mine, I suppose. Clearly it means "mine" – but is it English or Slovak?

I have to say I had never considered that Slovak and English sound alike until trying to decipher my child’s language. But, having met my daughter, they totally do!

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