|Kaya & Gabriel, in front of the Ronald McDonald House in Seattle|
There have been a number of moments over the past month, in fact, that have had me sitting back in smiles--and I finally made the efforts to record them on my phone so they'd be ready for this moment, right now, when I'm finally ready to share them with you, my wonderful little blogging community.
About 3 weeks ago, as we were driving in the car on the way to Geoff's office, she asked me, out the blue, "Werde ich immer Deutsch sprechen?" [Will I always speak German?] I couldn't believe she was thinking in such a manner, wondering so philosophically whether, in her future, she'd always speak this non-community language. Granted, it's possible that she wonders the same thing about English, but somehow, I doubt that: she's very clear at this point, that German is somewhat of an anomaly for her, for us, in our many communities of English speakers.
For me, the even-better part of our conversation came after my simple response to her. I let her know that I hoped she would, and then asked her, despite my slight fear of hearing the opposite, whether she wanted to always speak German in her life. Her response, in part just the tone of it, left me reeling in smiles. "Ja!"
Kaya is also showing a decent amount of curiosity around German grammar, too. Granted, it may not be sourced from that part of her brain, but as a language teacher, it makes me quite happy to hear her wonder about the difference between 'du' and 'dich' and why we use one over the other. This happened at the table, as we were eating lunch, on the same day that she expressed her excitement about always speaking German. Though the exact context escapes me, at one point she said, "Ich und dich," [I and you (the object pronoun instead of the subject pronoun)], to which I responded, inquisitively, "Ich und du?" This clearly triggered her curiosity (much preferred to her frustration, which has happened at times, too), as she then asked me, "Warum sagen wir du und nicht dich?" [Why do we say 'you' (subject pronoun) and not you (object pronoun)?]
On a similar grammar note, I have to share how impressed I was that, at times, she is using the proper case for her pronouns (one of the biggest challenges in German is knowing which case to use when, not to mention which pronouns belong to which case). Granted, this isn't a memorization, I realize, nor really a learning thing...it's mostly just a matter of her knowing from the inside out, which is right, because it sounds right. So, in some ways, this triumph is a little skip-hop celebration that my grammar has been proper enough for her to hear me and learn. We were leaving our friends' house after a play date, talking about how much fun we had had playing with Marek and Heather. "Du hast nicht gepielt," [You didn't play,] she made sure to point out. "Du hast gesprochen." [You talked.] She paused momentarily, and then continued to point out her observation. "Du hast zu Marek und mir gesprochen." [You talked to Marek and me.] As I type this, I can actually almost hear my sister squeal, for this error is one that she loves to correct in English, especially of me, because I've made it plenty. It's so tempting to use 'I' in that context, "you talked to Marek and I", when in fact, 'I' is the object of the preposition, so it needs to be in the dative case: me. And in German: mir. I'm sure that my sister, and even my Dad, will be so happy to hear that Kaya's German is accurate enough (in this case!) to hold her own.
Kaya is becoming more exact in her general usage of German, as well. She's asking more often how to say particular words as opposed to just throwing in an English substitute--a huge difference over our Christmas time spike in code-switching. This morning at breakfast, for example, she asked me, "Heisst 'waste' verschwenden?" [Does 'waste' mean 'verschwenden'?] We had just had a conversation about not wasting food, about the importance of putting in your bowl just the amount that you think you can eat, so as not to waste it. About 5 minutes later, she came up with that question. And on the same day as our play date with Marek, she corrected me on my usage of 'bunnies' over 'Hasen'. Referring to the snack that she got to eat at his house, I asked her if she liked the "Chocolate Chip Bunnies", to which she immediately said, "ja" and after a few minutes, let me know quite matter of fact that it's "chocolate chip Hasen, nicht Chocolate Chip Bunnies, Mama. Sie heissen Hasen auf Deutsch." [Chocolate chip Hasen, not Chocolate Chip Bunnies, Mama. They are called Hasen in German.] Later that day, she began to wonder about the other kind of Bunnies, asking me, "Was heisst 'Cheddow' auf Deutsch?" [What's cheddar called in German?] I told her that cheddar is a type of cheese, but that I don't know exactly what it's called in German, to which she clearly let me know that, "Du musst Cheddar Hasen sagen, Mama, nicht Cheddar Bunnies." [You have to say Cheddar Hasen, mama, not Cheddar Bunnies.]
And to wrap up our story telling for the day, I'll share this last little anecdote that speaks further to Kaya's recent passion and curiosity surrounding the nuance and accuracy of language usage. We were, once again, in the car (maybe it's time to start taking the bus more!!?), after a late night sleepover with her cousin, Arletta. Kaya sneezed, to which I automatically said, "Bless you!" I knew it was Kaya, and I must have been deep in my own thoughts, for I normally would have said, "Gesundheit". Kaya caught my slip, of course, and with a big smile on her face, announced, "Das war mich, Mama!...Du hast das in English gesagt." [That was me (object pronoun instead of subject pronoun), mama!...You said that in English."
Reflecting on all this positivity, all this excitement and passion in our recent past, has me quite happy, I have to say. Despite the various errors we both tend to make; the struggles in those moments where I'd much rather just yell or go off in English when I think I might lose it; or those words that i hate saying because I can hear the brutal american 'r' of my non-native accent...we've done it. No matter what happens from here, no matter how many more mountains we summit and valleys we fall into it, we made it through some major resistance, to the point that, this is OUR language. This is her mother tongue, the is the language in which she connects with her mama--and me with her--and mistakes and struggles aside, we're doing it.
And it feels damn good!