english speaking kid
Posted September 3, 2011on:
right on cue, May starts speaking English after having Katie, Nathan, and Chau in our house for 1 week straight. She clearly understands much more English than she has been letting on. Previously, she might have understood the daily conversations Son and I carry on in English, but perhaps she didn’t really have an opinion on what was said, so she chose to pay attention to other things instead, like the pattern of paint on the wall for example. Now, since she has an opinion on many things, she reacts to our conversations.
Me: Son, can you prepare her for bed tonight?
May: [in Vietnamese] I don’t want to go to bed!
Me: has she pooped today?
Son: no, not yet.
May: [in Vietnamese] I don’t want to go on the potty!
Maybe we’ll have to switch to French now.
Her English acquisition is quite a thing to behold. For one thing, it disproved some of my previous notions about children foreign language acquisition. I thought that adults make things hard for themselves because they try to translate literally from their native tongue into the 2nd tongue. Turns out, May does the same thing. For example, May would pin a bunch of toothpick animals onto the apple, and then says “Somebody’s on the apple!” The “somebody” here is the direct translation of the vietnamese “ai,” which is used in both the case of asking “who’s on the apple”(ai ở trên trái táo?) and also in the case of answering “everybody is on the apple!” (ai cũng ở trên trái táo hết – the exact thing she said in VNese to me) May’s understanding of “somebody” up to this point is that it means “who,” as in “is some body on the apple?” có ai trên trái táo không?
Another interesting thing is that she thinks about her words and then makes some choices rather than simply parroting. For example, she was jumping around today while saying to me “jumping on the house!” In Vietnamese, she meant “nhảy trong nhà,” and while she clearly knows that “in” means “trong,” she deliberately changed the preposition, because she also knows that in the past, she was always jumping “on” something – “jumping on the bed,” “jumping on the sofa,” “jumping on the table” (yes, I let her do that :-p ).
Anyway. So yeah, we have an English speaking kid. I show her that I understand her desire to practice her new found skills, so when she starts speaking English to me, I acknowledge and repeat what she tells me to make her feel more confident. I correct her pronunciation and grammar as necessary (believe it or not, she’s ready for such thing). But after I notice that she’s quite done with her practice session, I cut the English out completely and reiterate that we will use English when we are with non Vietnamese speakers, but we will always use Vietnamese to each other in the family. We’ll see how that works, heh.