Saturday, December 28, 2013

Bilingual magic

As most parents must realize sometimes, I occasionally look at Zoe and cannot believe she is already 3 and a half. I cannot believe I have such a sweet, funny, clever daughter who is as easygoing as she is. And I cannot believe that she can talk so much when it was just yesterday when all she could say was 'ma ma' (which meant both milk and mom). But what I also find myself astonished of is her bilingualism and improvement of language every single day, something that might be less common. The most impressive thing to me is that I hardly ever hear her speak English, so when I do it's like if your kid started tightrope walking without you ever having seen her practice. Or riding a bicycle for the first time without any help. I'm in awe how good she is and how clearly she speaks English until I remember that it is actually her first language. And I forget that although she really, really tries, her Danish is still muddled and she is missing a few key sounds that means mainly family and people who know her, can understand what she says. There are no hard r's and no sk's or kl's. In fact her pronunciation makes "sitting" and "saying" (in Danish) sound the same so we have a few funny conversations that are only funny until Zoe get so frustrated that she starts crying and screaming: Mommy you don't understand me! And I feel so bad that I go down on my knees and comfort her by promising to listen better and to understand better. But I still didn't know if she wanted to sit down or say something.

She mixes in a lot of English when she speaks Danish but to adults it quickly becomes part of her charm. She finally started being articulate about the languages herself and says with a laugh when we are out in Copenhagen: Mommy, they speak like us! On the way to a friend's house for a Christmas party, she asked what language they spoke to make sure she would be okay. They speak Danish, I reassured her and she was happy. She knows what she understands and what she doesn't understand. Yet, I really hope she will be able to play with more Danish kids to improve her bilingualism: So far her dolls all speak English and her stories that she read to them are in English. Tomorrow she is seeing her cousin who is only one year older than her. Let's hope she can teach the dolls some Danish.

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