Friday, December 3, 2010

I say England

Time for a language status report. We've been (back) in the country two months and two days and you can already start to see the influence of school and Czech in my daughter's speech.

This week she's been saying "eště ne" (not yet) a lot, which is funny in itself because strictly speaking it's Czechoslovak: "ne" is Czech, compare to "nie" in Slovak, but Czech is "ještě", "eště" is Slovak pronunciation. Or slangy Czech.

Also heard:
"Mama, I'm not done eště" (not done yet)
"Is it skončit?" (CZ Is it done?) Took me a minute to recognize this one.
"I want to kúpiť..." (SK to buy, also used in many other English sentences)
"I'm walking in veľký sneh (SK big snow) all on my own."

I haven't really been keeping a list but she is definitely using CZ/SK words that she didn't know before. Also, if you ever doubt that she understands Czech, just say "dárek" or "něco pro tebe mám" ("present" and "I have something for you") and see how high she jumps.

She's aware now that she speaks the same language I do and that it is called English. She understands both Czech and Slovak, but not perfectly: for example, she doesn't follow all the details of a story read in Slovak unless it has very clear pictures. Of course, she doesn't follow ALL the details of a story in English without pictures, either, but she gets more of it, it seems to me.

She also prefers to be read to in English, or maybe it is that she currently prefers to be read to by me no matter what language I read in. I do read her a book of Czech fairy tales, for example, and she likes that. I don't go as far as reading in Slovak (it would be a lot less convincing than Czech) but I do sometimes translate on the fly the few Slovak books we have. Yesterday Apo read us a story in Slovak and K asked me to read it again later in English.

She seems to be identifying herself with me and as an English speaker. "I say England. I say English." I always tell her, "Yes, you speak English AND you speak Slovak. And at school they speak Czech. You speak lots of languages." She nods and agrees that she speaks Slovak and English, but she knows perfectly well that she's primarily an English speaker and isn't as proficient in Slovak or Czech. (But have I mentioned our South American friend taught her to count to ten in Spanish? My daughter: polyglot.)

K is also aware that Apo and I both speak more than one language. Our traditional conversation when learning a new word is to establish that Apo says XX and Mama says YY and K says XX and YY. She always says it with an obvious pride in her voice. Recently she's been asking more questions about who says what: Mama says fish and Apo says ryba, but does Mama say ryba, too? I tell her yes, I say ryba when I am speaking Czech. And does Apo say fish? Yes, Apo says fish when he is speaking English.

Yesterday we were discussing a word that's different in Czech and Slovak (the two languages have a lot of shared vocabulary with only some words that are entirely unrelated). I can't remember what it was, so let's call it "cat" (CZ kočka, SK mačka).

We established that Mama says cat and Apo says mačka and K wanted to know if Mama also says mačka. I said, well, usually not. If I speak Czech I say kočka. I say kočka and cat. Apo says mačka and cat. K says cat and mačka and kočka. That seemed to mildly blow her mind. Three years old, three words for cat. And turtle. And the other 10% - 20% of CZ/SK words that aren't related.

No miracles happening here, but we're making progress. The other day K asked why I wasn't wearing slippers because the floors are cold. I think she's going to fit in JUST FINE.

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