The past week or so, I've been using these plastic animal cookie cutter things to add more smiles to Kaya's sandwiches. Not knowing exactly what I'd even call one of these creations in English, I created the word "Tierbrot", [animal bread] clearly using my most advanced skills of the German language. Honestly, the name doesn't really matter so much (as fun as it is to hear Kaya say), except in regards to the following story about an interaction that took place the other night between Kaya, myself, and Geoff.
We were in the kitchen, soon after Geoff got home from work. Kaya was hungry, and Mama was eager to quell her whiny requests with some food. "Ich will ein Tierbrot," [I want an animal bread] Kaya told me, emphatically. Clearly, I was not going to have any luck convincing her that cucumber might be a better choice. "Tierbrot," she began to insist, in her typical two-and-a-half-year-old way. Sometimes, you just gotta pick your battles--so despite my concerns of "spoiling her dinner" (who the hell coined that phrase, anyway?!), I relented with the Tierbrot and started going through the manufacturing process.
"Welches Tier willst du?" I asked her. [Which animal do you want?]. "Bring mir eins." [Bring me one.]
She excitedly scurried over to her bucket of shapes, carefully picking out the dinosaur. "Ich will dieses," she told me, with confidence. [I want this one.]
So, choosing to avoid the toasting step this time (which apparently lowers the health factor of multi-grain bread!), I throw a piece of bread on the cutting board and line up the dinosaur inside the edges of the bread. It's clearly a fine science, this Tierbrot process.
While I'm busying myself with this arduous task, I hear Kaya behind me sharing her excitement with Geoff. "Mama's making me a...Tierbrot!"
And that's when it hit me. After all these articles about the benefits of bilingualism, I realized that, before my very eyes, I was tuning in to one of the skills that Kaya is mastering by growing up with two primary languages. By explaining to Geoff in English what was happening with her snack, she was reminding me of this insight that she has regarding others' awareness of comprehension. In other words, it has become a part of Kaya's brain that she needs to make sure that Geoff understands what is happening when she and I are communicating. If we take out the second language here, and put her in a different situation where everyone is communicating in one language, her brain will still function like that--she will still be aware that others may not understand what is going on, and she will attempt to explain it to them so that they can be included and thus, interact with her.
It's fascinating, really.
Maybe only to this part-time stay-at-home-mom-language teacher.
And maybe only because I was giddy that evening, (and this one, too!) excited to have just gotten our Oregon senator to speak at our upcoming climate change event.
Whatever the reason, she's doin' it, and I'm ecstatic! I bet your bi- and multilingual kids are, too, whether it's obvious or not, as the benefits of our bilingual journeys lurk around every corner.