Minotaurs and Merlions: P’s Very Un-Darwinian Language Evolution.

Pea’s evolving language never ceases to amaze and amuse me.  I know kids brains are supposed to be all pliable and sponge-like with an incredible capability to sort and slot all sorts of information but there are times when I feel even I am pushing the limits.

My poor child was subjected to a number of waves of different dominant languages from English to Spanish to French, back to English with quite a bit of Mandarin in the last few months. Lately, her exposure to Spanish has fallen to a record low.

How I would portray P’s Spanish since moving to Singapore

Given P’s linguistic history, it’s no wonder her languages are a bit all over the place. Even following OPOL for the most part, the variation in exposures has fluctuated so much. I find it interesting that the words that seem to be sticking in French are verbs and she has fought again and again the use of french pronouns. I’m curious if that is a pattern in kids who mix. I expected nouns to be the first words to change since you don’t need to conjugate them. I’ve definitely noticed her avoid articles like Le and La, replacing them in stead with The.

Some of her linguistic concoctions:

Fading like a Dodo bird
She systematically used the Spanish word for with i.e. con. I loved hearing her say ‘i go con you’  and long to hear her speak con me that way.

Rising in numbers like Singaporean mozzies after a rainstorm

You plie it

‘You fold it’ AKA my toddler ordering me to clean up after myself. I blame her OCD father

 I mélange it

‘I stir it’ AKA my control freak toddler ordering me away from her yogurt and honey.

 I don’t want baby Claude to dérange me

‘I don’t want baby Claude to bother me’ AKA ‘I need you to both stay seated next to me while I colour, paint, play, etc and simultaneously take baby Claude away to another room. I don’t care if they haven’t figured out cloning. You are omnipotent so make it happen.’

My sirene goes under the water

‘My mermaid goes under the water’  Yes well she’s half fish so she would wouldn’t she. And now if only you would go under the water; I’ve spent a freaking fortune on those swimming lessons.

Finally my favorite category – the bilingual hybrid.
Please meet Tiny. Tiny is P’s Perroque. (half Parrot half Peroquet)

Sometimes, she really amazes me. Just when I’ve given up on the idea that she will act as my interpreter when we visit my lovely Mexican Mother-in-Law, she’ll point out a random object like a crane and say “that’s grua in Español”.

My heart soars!

So like any good parent, I offer her some gateau. “No Maman, I want cake! That’s pastel in Español”.

Two steps forward, one step back. Even sponges reach saturation point. I trust someday these languages will work together.

9 thoughts on “Minotaurs and Merlions: P’s Very Un-Darwinian Language Evolution.

  1. My son, being ten, also has the mix-up of the two languages we use often: English and Chinese. He would use the pattern of English word order in the Chinese language. For example, the English “We met the nice lady in Shanghai” would be” We in Shanghai met the nice lady” in Chinese. The “place adverbial” always goes before the verb for Chinese. But he would stick to the first way, no matter which language he is speaking.
    So we all know what “Two steps forward, one step back” means!
    Lovely post!

    • Thanks! We have the same thing happening here. I didn’t notice it so much at first as English and French actually both place the adjective before the noun but it is the opposite in Spanish. It’s cute though. I enjoy some of these steps back! Thanks for reading & commenting!!

  2. This is so adorable. It seems you can figure out everything Pea says, which is the important thing. And she isn’t self-conscious about her blended language. When I was trying to learn a little tourist Spanish a few years ago, often times a French word would pop up out of nowhere, since my high school language was French. When I was in the hospital recently in Argentina, that French came in handy. My nurse and I couldn’t communicate in Spanish or English, but then we realized that we both studied French in high school, so that worked pretty well.

    • It’s funny how old languages come back – usually in the wrong countries! When I was in Italy long after I had stopped practicing my Italian, I couldn’t manage anything but when I started trying to learn Spanish, my Italian kept creeping back. It sometimes seems like I can remember my Italian when I am with Spaniards but only recall my Spanish when I am with Italians. Typical! Pea’s a treasure. She is starting to figure out that the best way to get me to cooperate is to ask me things in French. She’s got “SIT DOWN” in French down with the perfect accent! How can I resist? Thanks for your comment!

  3. Pingback: Blogging Carnival on Bilingualism October 2011. « Verbosity

  4. I am just starting to wonder what will become of our bilingual son. Recently he started to beg (please sustitute english words for german ones) “Please speak in Espanhol! I like Espanhol”, adding after a second: “I can´t speak Espanhol very bien” and denying every bit of espanhol he speaks.
    BY the way, “grua” is one of his favorite spanish words. I wonder what will become of all of this in a few years….. Mama007

    • I may complain and whinge incessantly about the mixing and lack of this or that but I have to say I actually LOVE hearing those little mixed sentences. I am sure we will miss them once they’ve sorted everything out linguistically!

  5. Sounds pretty Darwinian to me! What is useful stays and what doesn’t goes. ;)

    My kids both have language mix-ups too, but it makes for interesting conversations!

    • Interesting, I hadn’t thought of it that way. I expected the language evolution to me more linear than the crazy twists and turns we encounter. All good fun though and I too love the mixups! Thanks for reading and commenting!

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