Monday, December 31, 2012

Budding Trilingual?

As we were driving home along Skyline last night, on the way home from a little gathering, Kaya and I were having one of those conversations that you never want to end. She was being so curious, so clear in her articulations, and so patient in her listening. The topic had me quite excited, too. The easiest way to share this with you is to give you a few 'visual sound bytes' and let you experience the excitement as I did:

Kaya: Mama, wie sagen wir meer in Spanish? [Mama, how do we say meer in Spanish?]
Me: Wie? Ist das ein Englishes Wort oder ein Deutsches? [What? Is that an English word or a German one?]
Kaya: Englisch.
Me: Wie sagen wir...oh, mirror. Ja, sicher. Du willst wissen, wie man Mirror auf Spanisch sagt? [How do we say...oh, mirror. Yeah, of course. You want to know how you say Mirror in Spanish?]
Kaya: Ja.

I found it very interesting that she asked me for the translation from English to Spanish, as opposed to German to Spanish, so I decided to probe a bit to learn more:

Me: Weisst du, was mirror auf Deutsch heisst? [Do you know how to say mirror in German?]
Kaya: Nein. [No.]
Me: Spiegel.
Kaya: Oh ja. Siegel.Wie sagen wir Siegel in Spanish (eng pronunciation). [Oh, right. Siegel. (notice the missing the -p-). How do we say Spiegel in Spanish?]
Me: Espejo. Kannst du das sagen? [Espejo. Can you say that?]
Kaya: Essay-ho.
Me: Ja, genau. Espejo. [Yeah, exactly. Espejo.]
Kaya: Wie sagen wir 'box' in Spanish? [How do we say 'box' in Spanish?]
Me: Wie sagt man box auf Spanisch? [How do you say box in Spanish?] (I was repeating back to her the grammatical corrections for her German question...)
Kaya: Ja.
Me: Wie sagt man box auf Deutsch?  [How do you say box in German?]
Kaya: Schachtel. [Schachtel]
Me: Ja, genau. oder Karton. Man sagt Caja zu Karton oder Schachtel. Willst du noch 'was wissen? Ich mag dieses Spiel! [Yes, exactly. Or Karton. People say Caja for Karton or Schachtel. Do you want to know anything else? I like this game!]
Kaya: Ja. Wie sagt man Triangle auf Spanish. [Yeah. How do you say Triangle (eng. word) in Spanish?]
Me: Wie sagt man Dreieck auf Spanisch? [How do you say Dreieck in Spanish?]
Kaya: ja.
Me: Triangulo. [Triangle.]

Even more curious about the origins of her line of questioning, I shared with her how interesting I found it that she was asking me to translate all of these words from English instead of from German. I'm curious, I told her, where her interest in Spanish had come from. She paused long enough for me to think she hadn't understood the question, and then responded with, "Aaron and Zach,." They are her little friends whom we just visited in Arizona. Zach is learning some Spanish in his preschool, and as she told me this, I recalled one evening at dinner when his dad was asking him all sorts of translations from English to Spanish. I also remember them playing with the garbage trucks (their FAVorite activity), doing a bit of the 'how do you say' game.

So, I naturally can't be sure whether she asked me to translate from English (vs. German) into Spanish because she didn't know the words in German--that's what she told me to be the reason. But 2 of 3 words that she asked me are words that she's known in the past, and has used before. I'm sure there's some fancy way to explain the reason that she did what she did--perhaps owing to 1 or 2 of the 5 lanes of memory as explained by Marilee Sprenger. But in my 'no longer in grad school but still very curious' explanation, I think that because she was hearing those kids speak about Spanish in English, that's how it registered in her brain, as if the concept of translating from German to Spanish doesn't even exist? Makes me wonder, for sure. Perhaps some highly educated linguists out there want to chime in (assuming they are anywhere near this little blog o mine!)??

Either way, the fact that Kaya has dipped into a curiosity for Spanish makes this trilingual mama very happy. Maybe we'll start planning that Ecuador trip for next year, after all!

And to top off my excitement, as I was lying in bed with her last night, having just sung our 3 bedtime songs, I looked at her, stroked the side of her face and said, "Ich hab dich sooo lieb, Boo Bear..." [I love you sooo much, Boo Bear]. She looked me straight in the eyes, smiled the sweetest smile I think I've EVER seen, and said, ever so gently, "Danke." [Thank you.]

As I was editing my post, and attempting to ignore what I thought, for sure, was a mouse (I found one in the oven drawer a few weeks ago!), Kaya comes walking into the office, speaking ever so calmly and quietly: "Mama, ich habe in mein Bett gepullert. Es ist nass." [Mama, I peed in my bed. It's wet." We head back to her room, and I realize that she's wearing a completely different pair of pajamas than the one Estella had her in before bed. I look in her laundry basket and notice the wet pair. Is this what we get now, as we finally exit the 3 1/2 year old stage and move closer to 4?! Whatever it is, it's truly wonderful, and I can't believe that our daughter just calmly cleaned herself up after an accident without even coming to tell me until she'd taken care of it all by herself. Crazy awesome.

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