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.


  1. It's funny, my parents think our children have a French accent when they speak English, but I didn't hear it until my Dad mentioned it! Now I tend to notice that the "th" sound comes out rather soft, but that's about it.

    I have a very different question for you: on the "Linkwithin" bit, how do you get the pictures to appear?

  2. Yeah, my mother-in-law used to insist K had an American accent IN HER BABY TALK. I had to roll my eyes at that, especially since she was actually producing unaspirated T and K and other Slovak sounds. :)

    As for linkwithin, I think pictures only show up if you actually included a picture with that specific post. Those are actually the only two pictures I've ever put on here, since I tend to focus on the text and no pictures.

  3. My son Griffin (also age three) is moving beyond the individual words as well....I just love to hear his spontaneous sentences in his second language! It's such a joy and a privilege to watch this up close, isn't it?!



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