Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Our Live-In Interpreter

Photo credit: David Wagner
On Sunday we celebrated the lovely sun with a family walk in the woods. On the way back we saw a few butterflies - to great delight of our three-and-a-half-year-old daughter, who absolutely adores them. Sitting on my husband's shoulders, she felt the need to teach him the word butterfly in Mommy language.

He repeated and then praised her for being able to speak both Mommy and Daddy languages.

Starting getting excited, she exclaimed:
"Anne (her best friend from kindergarten; not the child's real name) says: "Schmetterling!!!"

"Yes, this is how you say it in German," agreed my husband.

Still speaking in his mother tongue, our little one continued:
"Daddy, in English it is called "butterfly"."

We both gasped. While we do communicate in English with one another, none of us uses it with her. She understands it more and more, but does not try to speak - and we never ask her to. We have a few English picture books, which she loves and sometimes wants to hear in the original language; at other times we  simply translate them as we read. However, none of them is about butterflies, and neither I, nor my husband could remember telling her this word.

"True," I said. "In English you say "butterfly". Where do you know that from?"

"I was listening to Mommy and Daddy when they were talking," she answered.

Wow. Isn't it amazing how young children pick up languages with playful ease?

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