Monday, October 29, 2012

Bilingual with a Poop Cherry on Top

I was always told that the trick to attracting readers is to publish regularly.
Well, I think there might be another trick, because it's been nearly 2 months (yikes!!) since I last posted, and I can't believe the traffic to my blog, in comparison.

So exciting!
And very interesting indeed...I haven't done my 'homework', to see what the real deal might be, but in the meantime, if anyone has any input, please share. I'd love to hear!

As deeply entrenched in 'doing' as I am right now (I'm in the middle of this very exciting project of wiping off plastic tubs from our backyard and returning them to our finally dry and mold-free basement!), I can't miss this opportunity to jot down a few tidbits from the past hour 'round here.

Si-Si (rhymes with Kai-Kai...) came over from next door--our sweet little next-door neighbor boy, 10 days Kaya's elder. Every time they play together, I end up asking myself, "What the hell? Why am I not making more of an effort to create play dates?! (And why is so crazy hard to make them happen!?)" They are SO cute together, especially as they get older and into that age where they can actually play together--without guidance or too much supervision, either!

As you may recall (or just know because you're an avid reader with an amazing memory, or someone super important in our lives!), Si-Si is a passive German bilingual--meaning that he can understand German perfectly (for a near 4 year old), but doesn't speak it. Today, while he was playing in Kaya's room with her extendo-hand, I explored this a little with him. "I can't speak German," he said to us, in response to what we'd been discussing. "Echt? Gar kein Wort? Ich dachte, du konntest doch ein bisschen?" [Really, not a word? I thought you could speak a little.]
"No," he said, quite confident and matter of fact.
"Und wie ist es mit deinen Bruedern? Sie koennen schon ein bisschen, oder? " [And what about your brothers. They can speak a bit, right?]
"No. They can't." he declared again, simply. 

Well, regardless of the reality of their abilities (I've actually heard his older brothers speaking German, and perhaps Si, too...), the point that I'm wanting to make is that Si can understand Kaya and I when I'm speaking German, which means that I get to speak German to him, too. Very exciting, on both counts, in the world of play dates as a bilingual mama.

When he first walked through the door this afternoon, Kaya wasn't sure which language to speak to him. When I told her that he could understand German, and that she could ask him what he wanted to do, she shyly asked him in German, "Was willst du machen?" [What do you want to do?] She had this confused look on her face as she tried to work through his English response. She looked at me a few times for guidance, and tried once more with another question posed to him in German--to which he, once again, responded in English. She noticed that I was speaking German with him, and asked me after a bit, "Warum sprichst du mit ihm Deutsch, wenn er mit dir auf Englisch spricht?" [Why are you speaking with him in German when he is talking to you in German?] Clearly, the fact that this was her long time habit before age 2 1/2 is not part of her working memory. "Er kann mich verstehen, und es ist gut fuer seinen Deutsch, und fuer deinen. Und ich mag das. So, ich werde mit ihm auf Deutsch sprechen." [He can understand me, and it's good for his German, and for yours, too. And I like it. So, I'll speak to him in German.]

She clearly had a different opinion--totally normal under the circumstances where the community language is different than the minority language (esp. when the other kid leads with the community language)--and from then on, chose to speak English with him (perhaps, in part, because he told me that he couldn't understand her in German), and the fun just escalated from there. At one point, perhaps the highlight of the hour, Kaya comes to me in the kitchen, telling me, "Er ist lustig! Er sagt A-a und Furz...!" [He's funny! He says poop and fart...!] "Ja," I told her. "Er hat aeltere Brueder, und..." [He has older brothers and...] At which point, I hear his voice from back in the bedroom, making sure I was clear on where he learned his terms: "No. I didn't learn it from my brothers." "Oh, OK," I replied, quite curious now. "Hast du das von deinem Kuse, Ro, gelernt?" [Oh, OK. Did you learn that from your cousin, Ro?] "No." he said, with no apparent intention to share his secret source.

Looking at Kaya, all I could do was smile, regardless of her soon-to-be obsession with the word 'fart'.
As with the screen time, I'll take the community influence if it means a was rekindling her friendship with the little guy next door! (she's bound to get a potty mouth soon enough...may as well come with a friendship cherry!)

They are coming back to our house as I speak...time to gather more quotes...thanks for sharing!


  1. Dear Tamara,

    ich finde es toll dass Du Deine Erfahrungen auf diese Art und Weise teilst. Ich habe Deinen Blog vor ein paar Wochen gefunden und wollte jetzt mal "Hallo" sagen. Ich bin deutscher Muttersprachler und erziehe meine Kinder auf Englisch - Alva ist drei Jahre alt, und Nils etwas über ein Jahr. Vieles was Du schreibst kenne ich aus eigener Erfahrung, und es ist eine unheimliche Motivation für mich, Deinen Blog zu lesen. Ich habe mir gerade das Video angesehen, in dem Kaya das englische Lied auf Deutsch singt, absolut beeindruckend.

    Super finde ich auch das non-native crib sheet. Oft sind es genau die kleinen Dinge des Alltags, die ich nicht kenne oder nicht auszudrücken weiß. Genau wie die kindlichen Begriffe für Pupsen und so. Alva sagt z.B. immer "oh, I pooped", wenn sie gepupst hat - die Wörter sind einfach phonetisch zu ähnlich, sie bekommt den Unterschied noch nicht hin.

    Ich habe, als ich 16 war, ein Jahr in den USA gelebt - lustigerweise in der Nähe von Portland, OR (Clackamas). Würde mich freuen den Kontakt mit Euch zu vertiefen.

    Liebe Grüße

    1. Lieber Frank,

      es freut mich so sehr, von Dir zu hoeren, vielen herzlichen Dank, dass du endlich hallo sagst. Finde ich wirklich toll. Deine 'Hallo' ist einer der grossten Grunden, dass ich diesen Blog angefangen (und jetzt weiterschreibe) habe. So, vielen vielen Dank.

      And as much as I CAN write in German, the words flow so much more quickly and easily in English--after all, I do speak with a toddler on a daily basis, not adults!--so since you're capable of both, I'll just bounce into English a bit. I'm sure you appreciate it, too, in a way, since that's the language you're speaking to your little ones in, too, on a regular basis.

      I, too, would LOVE to get to know you guys better-I like how you expressed that in German--Kontakt zu vertiefen!--it seems that the longer I have this blog, the more and more native Germans that find it, which, of course, makes me quite happy! Of course it would be fun to visit you all when we go back in a few years...but even more fun for me is building the community of us non-natives, striving, reaching outside of our comfort zones to make the 'sacrifice' for our kids.

      It really is wonderful to hear from you, and should you have other questions, and/or want to share some stories from your life, please do drop me a line. My email is (I'm not SUPER good at checking that account, usually very good at checking this blogger one).

      Also, your writing in German in super helpful for me...I just walked my husband through your email--a guy who knew no German before I started speaking to Kaya in German when she was born. Now, he understands a lot of what we say, either through body language or context, about 90%--and was even picking up some from this German on TV this other day. It's fun. How about your wife?

      Looking forward to continuing the back and forth!
      Take care,

  2. Hi Tamara,

    klar kannst Du auf Englisch schreiben. Für mich ist es auch einfacher, Deutsch zu schreiben als Englisch. Faszinierend dass Dein Mann anfängt, Deutsch zu verstehen. Hätte nicht gedacht, dass auch der Partner die zweite Sprache mehr oder minder nebenher lernen kann. Meine Frau spricht sehr gut Englisch, es war nie ein Thema, daß sie evtl. gar nicht versteht, was wir sagen. Super dass Dein Mann Dich dabei unterstützt, obwohl er die Sprache nicht spricht. Sag ihm viele Grüße und großen Respekt! :-)

    Hier ist es jetzt ein Uhr nachts, ich verabschiede mich für heute. Naja, morgen ist Feiertag, alles wird gut. Ich melde mich demnächst wieder, freu mich auf Deinen nächsten Blog!

    Viele Grüße

  3. Hi Frank,
    Wow, what a quick response, thanks! Great to hear from you again.

    In regards to Geoff, just to clarify, he's been understanding things from the beginning, mostly b/c I used to repeat SO much when she was a baby, he learned along with her. So, it's not that he's just beginning to understand, but that he actually does understand a great deal of what we talk about--and asks about those particular words when he doesn't. The 'goal' was for him to do Rosetta Stone, but life got in the way, and he hasn't been doing it.

    I'm glad to know that you look forward to these blog posts...that's definitely motivating for me too, esp. when I get to hear impressions of you guys out there. Thanks so much, once again!

    Talk soon,

  4. Lovely to get your latest update and so sweet the little boy who claims not to speak German! I've met a few passive French kids with a similar opinion! I always think passive knowledge is a pretty amazing achievement by itself.

  5. Thanks for stopping by! It's great to hear from you again...hope you are well. And yes, thanks for the reminder. Passive bilingualism is quite an achievement, too!


I LOVE reading your comments, they make such a difference! Thanks for sharing!