Friday, January 15, 2010
Further adventures with a bi-lingual child
When we arrived, she was playing on the floor with Peppa Pig and company - and Mamie (French for "Grandma"). Every word of the conversation was in French. And then we arrived - and were addressed instantly in English. No hesitation, no trying out French on us: it simply wasn't appropriate.
During lunch, the same easy switch, depending on the person addressed: restaurant staff and ourselves in English, Mum and Mamie in French - unless Mum was speaking English. But when we had returned to the house and were being shown a new book I realised something else that has recently begun to dawn on me. The book in question was the story of the Three Little Pigs - in French. Like the first Babar book I ever owned, it had text written in a cursive style - lots of it. Now, I must admit that Catriona is currently more interested in the pictures of le Grand Méchant Loup - and yes, that's the order the words came in and this apparently happens, for I asked - with a mere paraphrase of what's happening to him. But I was fascinated to note that the subjunctive of a verb was used - of course it was! - without any fuss. Children don't know it's the subjunctive; they just use it because that's what you have to say in certain circumstances. And I thought of the wretchedly small number of subjunctives I actually know in French, and how late on in my French learning career I picked them up, and reflected on how good it was for my continuing education to read these books to my grandchild.
Add that to her precocious enjoyment of a silly voice I once used to say "Hello" - very deep and English-accented - and her ability to mimic it perfectly, and you have a wonderful five hours of exploring language. She, of course, was just having fun. And so was I.