Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Speaking your mother tounge

A while ago I asked Zoe, because I was really curious about it, what language she was thinking in. She laughed and said silly mom, silly question. "When I'm with you I think in Danish, and when I'm with daddy I think in English, of course". Yes, silly me, I forgot that when you are bilingual the whole thinking process is as transitional as the speaking process. But there was a reason I asked. Because I have always been aware that one of the reasons my English is so fluent, despite me not starting to learn until I was 10 or 11, is that I think almost exclusively in English. When moving to Florida right after high school to go to college, I simply switched my main cognitive language from Danish to English. I quickly got compliments for my accent (American) and just make a a lot of effort when I speak, which means I can easily pass as American (however, occasionally with an exotic British twang). Zoe, on the other hand has a Danish/Scottish/Irish* accent in English and a cute English accent (lack of the very distinct Danish 'stød') in Danish. I'm sure she will eventually settle on something, hopefully a Copenhagen accent like me and a Scottish accent in English.

These days I find myself having to dig up a lot of Danish from the back of my mind, in order to teach Zoe. I'm actually still very good in spelling and phrasing myself in written Danish, despite often claiming I have forgotten. But for Zoe's sake, I need to keep it up and teach her so she can become fluent. I will have failed if she is asked "where are you from" in Denmark when she becomes a teenager. She is from Denmark because her mom is. And she is proud of it.

Meanwhile, I'm on my way to Copenhagen to spend two weeks there on holiday. While Zoe is in daycare in Stockholm, spending August with her dad.

*Her best friend in daycare is Irish and I noticed recently that they have exactly the same mixed accent, probably because they spend a lot of time together. Sadly, she is 6 months older than Zoe and started school this year, where Zoe is not due to start kindergarten before next year according to the Swedish system.

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