Words times three

3:47 AM

Last week I walked into the house that we were renting with Principe's brothers and I walked right into the middle of all the cousins playing. Queenie is the oldest of the seven and as she is just five they are all still at the age where they are able to ignore adults as long as the adults are rather quiet.

So I decided to be quiet and watch for a moment. And listen.

And much to my delight Queenie answered one of her cousins with a complicated sentence (two verbs, using a pronoun instead of the proper noun, type of sentence) in Spanish and had all the verbs, pronouns, adverbs, etc correctly placed!

This is not something that would excite most parents of a five year old. In fact, her four year old cousins can make even more complicated sentence structures and their parents don't get all goose-bumpy...but her our year old cousins haven't had a hard time learning to speak, either.

I was so proud of her but I didn't want to embarrass her (she embarrasses easily these days) or make a big deal about something that perhaps she thinks she does anyway. Language, while intuitive, can be complicated for a tri-lingual child with speech delay. The biggest complication is that speech is usually spontaneous in that we don't sit and think for an hour before we speak a sentence. We just open our mouths and allow the words to flow forth.

For a tri-lingual kid, the whole process of thinking while speaking can be problematic as the brain tries to quickly remember the right words and grammatical structure for the language being spoken at that moment in time. Add to the fact that the are simply still learning language in general and you might get sentences like:

"See that girl? She has a bow about pink" (Here Queenie is translating the idea of in Spanish many times you give possession of color "De que color es" and using it in English. Although, if you directly translate that sentence into Spanish it is not grammatically correct either. But it is rather her brain trying to use the grammatical rules of one language and simply getting it all mixed up in the process.)

"All the two" instead of "both of us" (In French they quite literally say "Tous les deux." But of course, in English it sounds weird!)

"Yo me voy a hacer una cosa" (Queenie always says "me voy" which is reflexive in Spanish and only used when someone is saying that they are leaving. The significance of it hasn't clicked in her head yet though and instead of saying "Voy a hacer" I  am going to do it comes out as I am leaving am going to do.....)

And then we have all the preposition confusion like "Give that for Papa" or "I am going about the pool" etc.

Poor girls, it just isn't easy.


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