Friday, March 18, 2011

Not a Duck

My daughter has always enjoyed playing around with names. I still remember when she realized that Apo and I have other names as well. She seemed to consider it the same as how she also has two names: the English and Slovak versions of her name. "I Katie and Katka! You Melissa and Mama!"

We use the same full version of her name everywhere - Katarína - but encourage English speakers who have trouble with the nickname - Katka - to call her Katie instead. I used to call her Katie myself, but once she started talking she showed a clear preference for Katka, so I decided to respect that...

So far fairly simple, but once you get further into nicknames it gets kind of hectic. Katarína (Katherine in English, Kateřina in Czech) comes with a ton of short versions. Katka becomes Katuška, Katuš, Kaťula, Kaťulka, Káťa, Káča, Kačka, Kačena, Kačenka...and those are just the common ones!

We use a range of nicknames (often entirely unrelated to her actual name) but usually Katka or Katuška. The most common nickname for little girls named Kateřina in Czech, though, is Kačenka. And by most common I mean people start calling you that automatically whether you like it or not. It's very Czech instead of Slovak, though, and the Slovak doesn't like it, so we never called K Kačenka at home...and therefore she never heard it until we moved six months ago.

I didn't really think about it as an issue until her teachers at the new school asked me what they should call K (they wanted something more little-girly than plain Katka) - "She doesn't even look up when we call her Kačenka!!" I explained that she probably didn't realize that was supposed to be her name, and explained that we usually use Katka or Katuška. They call her Katuška and related names now, which works out great for everyone.

Since then I've been paying attention and have noticed that K will actually answer to anything - EXCEPT Kačenka! Sometimes she ignores it completely, and other times she insists, "I NOT Kačenka!"

Yesterday I asked her if her name was Kačenka and she said, "I NOT Kačenka! Kačenka is kačenka. Duck. I not a duck."

This was the point where I fell on the floor laughing, because kačenka DOES mean duck, and that's the reason the Slovak doesn't like it: why would you call your little girl Duck? He's never mentioned that to K, but she apparently came to the same conclusion herself!

Our awesome little Katuška is not a duck...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Language of Her Peers

If pregnancy hasn't impaired my ability to count - which is by no means a given - then we've been back in Prague for six months. Six months of increased exposure to Czech, and I have to say I'm pretty impressed with where K is at, especially when you consider that most of her progress has been since January at her new school.

The Slovak and I have been noticing recently how her active vocabulary keeps growing - she can tell him offhand what something is called rather than thinking about it for five minutes first. Her grammar is not great, but frankly, what three year old's grammar is? Her English grammar can be pretty sketchy at times, but it is better than her Czech grammar. However, she is really moving past the individual words and set phrases and making her own sentences.

I think the longest/most correct one to date was "Já nechci volat Babku!" (I don't want to call Grandma!) Not the kindest sentiment, maybe, but a spontaneous expression of her feelings in Czech!

Popular set phrases include:

Já to umím sama! / I can do it myself
Teta, já chci pití! / (to teacher) I want a drink
Dej mi to! / Give me that
Koukej! / Look
Vidis! / See?
To nejde! / It won't work, I can't do it

Several of those are marked, as the Slovak complains to me bitterly, by a distinct Prague accent. Last week she talked about a "pejsek" (instead of a havo!). Or today at school, as she was getting herself dressed to go, I said, "Vidíš, jak to umíš sama" (See, you can do it yourself!) and K replied, "Ale ne-umíííím!" So perfectly Pragueish! I think it's adorable - and inevitable - and of course having learned the language here I speak Pragueish Czech, too. But the Slovak, as an Easterner, is finding that he's a little less reconciled to little Czech-speaking children than he once thought. He can handle a pejsek, but I'm pretty sure if K comes home talking about sejr one day, we'll be on the next train to Košice!

Basically this is the flip side of my mixed feelings last year on K's British accent in English. There is something fundamentally jarring about your child speaking to you in a different dialect than the one you use. Like a tiny stranger is living in your house. If we ever (as we hope) move to Slovakia, this won't be the only reason - but it won't be the least important, either.

For now, though, the essential thing is - K can communicate and is learning to talk just like her friends! That's the way things should be.


Related Posts with Thumbnails