Saturday, June 25, 2011

Bilingual in Arkansas

One of the most pleasant surprises during our trip to America was that K did not back off at all from her new speaking-Czech-with-Apo routine.

We thought she might revert to answering in English, as she used to do and as would be understandable in an entirely English environment, but she had no problem conversing with him - in the store, in the car, in Grandmama's house - in all or mostly Czech and Slovak, depending on her knowledge of what she wanted to say. She does still speak some English to him, mostly on things she doesn't know the words or grammar for yet. Fair enough.

She also was completely confident in speaking English with everyone else and fitting in with other kids. I heard her use a Czech word to Grandmama once or twice, but she mostly kept everything to what people could understand. She enjoyed singing some of her preschool (and home) songs to Grandmama, which was pretty entertaining, especially when I had to clarify which songs she was singing real words to and which songs she was making up as she went along.

I wondered if K would be surprised by everyone speaking English in America, but the only time she commented on it was at the Prague airport when two women ahead of us in line were speaking English. "They speak English like me! And you!" I guess she got used to it after that.

She had a blast while there and didn't get set back at all during the trip or once we got back. Even jet lag was much easier this time around - we all slept all night every night since we got back! Not like jet lagging with an 11 month old who at 2 am just wants to play...

One thing she learned in Arkansas was the song "Ring of Fire" - she's heard it before on our i-pod, but started trying to sing along in the car this time. So of course I played it for her a few times and sang along so she could watch my mouth and pick up the words. I have to say, "Burns burns burns" is a very funny line to hear coming out of a three year old's mouth! I think it's the perfect souvenir to bring home from a trip to Arkansas, don't you?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Difficulty Making Yourself Understood

It's not just for the foreign language any more!

We just got back from a visit to America. (It was great, fun was had.) While there, we had a few communication challenges to overcome...not counting the Slovak's traditional introduction to new people of "Hi, I'm The Slovak" followed by blank stares at the unfamiliar name.

Early one morning the Slovak went out to get us coffee (is he not a lovely husband?) and came back somewhat depressed. He said the girl working at Starbucks made him repeat everything three times before she understood. He asked me if his English is really that bad or is the girl just not very smart? I suggested maybe it was the lack of a distinct Southern accent that threw her off.

The next few times we went in, he made me order, and I HAD THE SAME PROBLEM. Same girl, made me repeat myself three times, and still got the order wrong. I was able to assure him that it wasn't him, it was her. Poor guy was starting to doubt himself.

Then, for our last meal before getting on the plane, we stopped at Olive Garden. We sat down, then the Slovak and K left for the bathroom. While they were gone, the waiter stopped by for our drink order.

"I'd like two raspberry lemonades and a child's apple juice please."
"OK, and for you?"
"I'm having one of the lemonades."
"So three raspberry lemonades and an apple juice."
"No, no, just two raspberry lemonades."
"But that's only three drinks."
"There are only three of us here. Me, my husband, and my daughter."
"But I could have sworn I saw a tall, bearded guy with glasses walking away from this table a few minutes ago. With a child."
"Yes, that was my husband and my daughter. We're the only ones here."
"OK, you threw me off with the 'three child's lemonades and an apple juice' thing."
"?? No, sorry, I just want two adult raspberry lemonades and a child's apple juice."
"OK, wait, let's start from the beginning. Who all is sitting here today?"
"Two parents, drinking raspberry lemonade. One child, drinking a child's apple juice."
"Yes. But what are YOU having?"
"I'm one of the parents."
"But what about the other person here?"
"Really, no other person. Two raspberry lemonades, one child's apple juice."

I am not even exaggerating. I think I may have left out a couple of exchanges, in fact. Somehow I convinced him to bring the drinks I asked for, and we got them. Eventually. It was very difficult keeping a straight face for the last half of the conversation.

Good grief. :)


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