Three languages

3:06 AM

   I reconnected with an old friend through facebook the other day. She is married to a Spanish speaker and also has bilingual kids. She posts some of the things her kids say on facebook sometimes, which remind me so much of my two.
   The mind is a funny thing. While it is really "hard" to learn a language, as your brain is made for it, and it is even easier for your little ones to learn them, sometimes it seems to have some blips. Like the neuron doesn't fire from one language to the other. It happens to me sometimes when people ask me, "how do you say this in English?" I open my mouth and then nothing comes out! The most frustrating thing is that it is usually the easy words that just don't get that electrical brain shove.
   For kids they go from thinking everything heard around them is just one big happy language to actually sorting it all out and realizing that some people only speak "some" of the words that their little brain knows. Queenie is in the stage right now. Firecracker is in the first stage.
   Firecracker says things like: "Quiero get down." "Quiero eat." (Quiero=I want)
   She also speaks whatever word she knows to whoever will listen. She doesn't yet "get" that some people don't speak all of her languages. Her grandmothers are only monolingual in their own language but Firecracker just says whatever she wants and looks at them with wide, expectant eyes. This might have something to do with the fact that she sees both her mom and dad speak both Spanish and English, because when she goes to school I think she focuses more on French. Not that I am there with her to study this observation, but after school she pulls out her new French vocabulary for another hour: "Les livres, mama?" (The books, mama?=meaning she wants to read books) "On y va?" (let's go) "Au revoir!"  (Good-bye).
    But then Queenie is really figuring out that not everyone speaks all her languages. The more confident she gets in speaking (speech therapy is going so well!) the more she speaks to everyone in their language. The other day was the first time I heard her speak French at the park to other kids. She saw her little sister being shuffled among the older kids and screamed out (literally screamed. At the park she only has one volume!) "C'est une petite fille!" (She is a little girl!). Her pronunciation made it sound like she was saying her sister was a little boy, but who cares! She was confident enough to speak French at the park! Yea!
   But as said before sometimes her brain has blips or wrong translations. Like the other day she translated, "beaucoup de monde" and "Lots of 'bodies'" (instead of saying, "everyone is here" or "So many people" etc). Or sometimes when a friend of ours (Spanish speaking) asked her what color something was, she looked at him and quickly opened her mouth only to have it come out in English. The good thing is that she usually laughs about these things, but it is at those moments that I reflect on how "hard" this is at times. She doesn't see it as work, I don't think, she just sees it as normal, but goodness, imagine discovering that your name is spelled "differently" between mama and papa's language? (Different because the letters are said differently.)
   Goodness.
    Today the receptionist at the doctor's office heard Firecracker speak something in English and asked if she spoke two languages. I shook my head and said, "No, three." She had that wide-eyed, I-don't-think-I-heard-you-right look when I quickly explained that she spoke English with me, Spanish with her papa and French at school. She laughed and said, "That's enough, no?"
   Yes, for now, that it definitely enough!
I am participating in Yeah, Write Me this week!  

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