2 to 2 1/2 Years
December 8, 2003
Had a very depressing interview today. It was with a German woman I know whose husband speaks perfect German because he teaches it at university and lived there for several years. They just had a baby boy and the husband has decided to speak English to him since he feels otherwise it will feel “artificial.” I thought, “if this guy, who speaks PERFECT German isn’t interested in speaking it to his kid, who is? Maybe my research will have a very small audience. That’s okay I guess.
December 11, 2003
I had lunch today with Gloria and her 2 year old Bria. She was telling me about her in- laws who insist that she not speak Portuguese with the kids. She just finally, with Bria, decided to do so anyway. This odd thing is that her mother-in-law actually speaks another language. Somehow she’s afraid the 2 languages will confuse the grandkids. Gloria doesn’t let the kids watch t.v. in English, only in Portuguese. Her oldest son doesn’t want to speak Portuguese, she says. He’s 9. Her other child is 7 years old and is a girl. I asked “But your daughter isn’t hesitant to speak it is she?” sort of emphasizing the “daughter” part to see if she thought it was a sex difference, but not wanting to be too prompting. She hadn’t associated it with his being a boy before I could tell by the sort of lightbulb that went off in her face. She said that his grandfather was so against it and that his father speaks English to him although he knew Portuguese that that could very well be why he’s reluctant, that it’s not a manly thing.
To quote her: My son is very reluctant to speak Portuguese and I don’t really know why. Maybe because he’s older and in school. Christine: But your daughter isn’t hesitant is she? (her daughter is also in school and is 7 whereas the boy is 9) Gloria: (with a light going off in her face as if she hadn’t thought of it as a sex difference before). That really could be it because his (paternal) grandfather is very against the idea of me speaking Portuguese to him. And his father speaks English to him though he knows Portuguese. Christine: So it could be that he doesn’t see it as manly. Gloria: It really could be.
As concerns culture, I was embarrassed today at the restaurant with Gloria because Sydney was crying from time to time and the combination of that with Bria screaming (happy shrieks, but still loud and in a confined space) it was obvious to me we were annoying others around us. Gloria was completely unaffected. I realized that as she smiled with each of Bria’s shrieks that we really were of different cultures. She also didn’t seem to mind the mess we left on the floor. I thought, I’ll just leave a big tip. But then when the bill came and I insisted we just split it, she was adamant that I would be cheated that way since she and her daughter had ordered a juice. I didn’t mind paying extra just to get out of there quicker and to avoid being a hassle for the waitress who we’d already inconvenienced. She said, “I’ll just pay the tip”. That made me feel even worse as we left because she didn’t leave as hefty a tip as I would have for a waitress who had to clean up everything we’d left behind. It’s hard because I’m trying to expose myself and Sydney to another culture, and yet the cultures ARE different and we are living in American and have to follow her rules, not those of Brazil.
This afternoon when I got home I was so thrilled because I had a paper accepted for a conference at the University of Kentucky at Lexington. I will have had the baby by that time so I’ll just bring him/her along with me and my parents said they were happy to babysit. My in laws said they were happy to keep Sydney.
December 16, 2003
Sydney is able to recite from books, especially rhyming books, in both languages, particularly the last word that rhymes. It’s hard to keep up with my word list these days because she said so many new things and because she doesn’t really speak English to me so it’s hard to track those words.
She’s doing well translating if she’s not understood in one language. Today she said “blue” but I honestly didn’t understand her so she said, “azul’ and I got it.
December 17, 2003
Sydney was listening to me talking to Stephen today. I told him how she’d said “pontinho” and before I could tell him what that means, Sydney piped in with, “I said ‘dot’”
She reads Brown Bear Brown Bear (or really is reciting what she’s memorized. It comes out some in English, some in Portuguese because I read it to her a lot, translating it into Portuguese and trying to keep the rhythm.
December 19, 2003
Today our neighbor took us for Indian food. He’s from India and said he would order everything for us and we could experiment with different foods. When the pampadam (that thin white tortilla like food that’s sort of folded over) came to our table, Sydney explaimed “FRAULDAS!” (“DIAPERS!”) Stephen and I looked knowingly at each other and smiled, glad she had said it in Portuguese. She also looked at the little statues of Hindu gods and said, “BRUXAS!” (“WITCHES”). Again, we were glad.
===December 20, 2003 She’s translating a lot now. She’ll point to the tea kettle and say “cha” (“tea”) in Portuguese to me, then turn to Stephen and say it in English.
December 24, 2003
Everyone’s here for Christmas Eve. I worked on a loose-leaf notebook for Sydney. It is a pretty one with pink binding. I am putting Xeroxed copies of songs I find on the internet and have Xeroxed this song book my neighbor loaned me (I copied the CD too), because it’s one I can’t just order for myself since a school made it for their students in Brazil. I also have copied CD jackets of music she likes. Any of the Xeroxes, I glued onto to brightly colored paper and put in those plastic sleeves. I decorated the notebook and some of the pages with brightly colored stickers. It’s really cute. That way we can go through the book together and sing the songs we’ve learned from her CDs. It’s amazing how many lyrics you can learn just listening to music in the car.
January 1, 2004
Sometimes I worry about her not being totally socially “in” because she still isn’t sure when to speak English. We went to a New Year’s party today and when we left the area where the kids were playing, she turned to the children and said, “Tchau Meninos’ (Bye kids!). Of course, they didn’t respond because they had no idea she was saying goodbye to them.
This afternoon I heard her singing this Brazilian song “Alegrim” (“Rosemary”) for like the 10th time. She knows all the words and has been singing it nonstop lately. Then when I put her to bed and his play on her CD player (she goes to sleep listening to a CD of Brazilian music), I noticed that it was on “replay” and had been replaying the same song—the one she’s been singing for a week—over and over all night long. That’s almost like brainwashing, poor kid!
January 2, 2004
Sydney really seems to enjoy translating. She was “reading” a book on her own and saw a picture of a kite. She said, “kite” to Stephen, then looked at me matter-of-factly and said it in Portuguese.
January 4, 2004
Okay, it is just impossible to keep up with the word list. There are just too many words to keep up with so I’m raising the white flag. It’s too hard to know what to count as a new word. For example, she can now recite that “This is the church, this is the steeple, open the door and see all the people” rhyme. Do all those words count? I was trying to only use words she spontaneously produced (as opposed to ones she had just heard someone else use) and words she understood but these lines get blurred the more words she knows.
January 5, 2004
Lately I’ve been doing this game with Sydney so that she can overhead a dialogue in Portuguese. I pretend to call someone on the phone and I tell them all about what we’ve done that day. I stop sometimes and ash Sydney, “Now what did we do next” to let her also get in on the conversation. She always wants to call Paw Paw, but really that’s not so realistic because were we talking to him, we’d speak English.
Stephen overheard one of these calls to Paw Paw and was laughing at all the right places—it’s amazing how much he’s understanding these days.
January 6, 2004
This is the official last day of the word list, just can’t keep up. She can fill in words I leave out of most any book we read often…do I count these words? It’s just too impossible these days and I’m not even sure what the point is anyway.
January 8, 2004
We are really conversing more these days, Sydney and I. I feel we talk back and forth much more, especially on walks and at the end of the day we relay what we did all day to Stephen. I speak in Portuguese to her during these “relay” times and Stephen hears the Portuguese or her English, depending, and he is teaching her the English that way. Example:
Mamae: O que nos fizemos hoje, Sydney, fala pra Daddy (What did we do today Sydney, tell Daddy)
Daddy: (looks at me, not understanding)
Me: She sat on the dragon at the supermarket
January 11, 2004
I really felt my in-laws were much more supportive of our bilingual decision so maybe my anxiety over that was ill-founded, and I misinterpreted their feelings towards our plan.
I was in my in-laws home this weekend for a baby shower while Sydney stayed home with Sydney. Bob seemed to be delighted overhearing me talk to Sydney on the phone (Sydney stayed t home with Stephen while I went to the shower to we spoke on the phone at night.). He heard me speaking in Portuguese with intermittent animal sounds (she was telling me about animals she and Stephen had made out of play dough). When I got off the phone, Bob exclaimed good-naturedly, “Wow, that was one crazy phone call!” Also, I overhead my mother-in-law Lois telling several of her friends at the baby shower how I only speak Portuguese to Sydney--she was very positive about it.
I wondered if Sydney would be reluctant to use Portuguese with me tonight when I got home after 48 hours of English only with her Daddy. But she was the same as always except for the first few minutes while she and Stephen relayed the events of the day. I noticed her stringing together longer English-only sentences in this story relay. For example, “I saw a truck and a bus!” Before, I don’t remember hearing her stay so many English words at one time, they were more separate words .I wonder if she was doing what I do in Portuguese and sort of getting in a “Zone” as I call it, with a language. For me, I love to speak only Portuguese for a few hours because I get in a sort of state of Portuguese mind where the language flows much more easily off my tongue than it does if I’m interrupted with English.
January 12, 2004
I noticed Sydney uses a Portuguese translation for certain words in English. For example, she calls a stroller and the grocery cart “wagon.” I think that’s because both stroller and grocery cart and wagon are all called “carrinho” in Portuguese.
January 18, 2004
Today there was a fly in the house and Sydney said, “Shoo bicho, nao bother me!” (“Shoo fly, don’t bother me). I may name a book chapter that. It could be the chapter on mixing the languages.
January `9, 2004
Even with Sara and the kids in town for the day, Sydney still spoke Portuguese to me. She kept playing a game with her cousin Brian-“You, You, You!” she would say, talking and pointing to him. Then she turned to me to include me in the game and said it in Portuguese, “Voce, voce, voce!”
January 23, 2004
Realizing Sydney will speak Portuguese better than I do. She corrected me on the word for ladybug today because I mistakenly called it a dragonfly. I just confused the words and didn’t notice I’d done it I guess because it’s my second language so it didn’t sound all that wrong. But to her, it’s her first language and was the difference in a round red bug with black spots and a thin buzzy one with big clear wings.
I had 3 Brazilian friends over for lunch. It was a lot of work but well worth the effort. Two of the ladies didn’t know the third lady and literally after 2 minutes, you’d have thought they were all 3 old friends. Sydney played with Gloria’s 2 year old. They all talked about how hard it is to get their school aged kids to speak the language (all three have school aged kids as well).
One of the ladies, Leila, was correcting my Portuguese as she does because I’ve asked her to. I don’t know Gloria as well and she was surprised that Leila was correcting me. She sort of just came out and asked Leila about it and Leila assured her it was okay. Gloria said, “oh, I will too then!” I was making many verb errors Marleni said, “You know, Sydney will talk with your accent.” That made me feel sort of sad because my accent used to be much better. People used to confuse me for a native speaker.
Tonight at dinner Sydney would say one thing to Stephen in English, then look at me and say it in Portuguese.
Sydney to Stephen: a bug
Sydney to me: é bicho
Sydney to Stephen pointing to his food: Is it good?
And to me: é bom?
She did it as if it were the most normal thing in the world.
January 25, 2004
Today at the church nursery, the college student Joyce who works there said, “We got Sydney to speak some Portuguese by pointing to her mouth and asking, “What’s this?” She said, ‘boca’!” They laughed and were so excited about that. It was odd to me that they were getting so excited about it. I thought, “of course she knows that’s her boca.” But it is really amazing if you stop to think about it. It made me feel good that they thought it was interesting.
I hope though that people’s curiosity is a source of pleasure for Sydney in the future, that she’s okay with being different enough that it doesn’t bother her. I know there will come that age where she just wants to be a normal kid and I’ll respect those feelings, knowing that at a later date, she may be more apt to want to be different and speak our beautiful language.
January 26, 2004
I think some grammatical issues are tougher for Sydney to remember because of Portuguese. Auxiliary “do” for the negative imperative, for example, she says, “No do that!”
January 28, 2004
Today Stephen overheard Sydney correcting me when I said, “horse” instead of “cow” (I’m not sure why I did that, I was just tired. We were in the floor playing with an animal puzzle we’d worked about a million times). Anyway he said, “You realize she’e going to speak better Portuguese than you, even though you’re her main teacher.”
I felt bad for Stephen today because he was helping Sydney get her jacket off and she was yelling, “Quero fazer sozinha!” (I want to do it myself!) but he didn’t understand “sozinha” so he just kept helping her. I came in at the end of the screaming fit and told him what she’d been saying. He said, “Oh, I’ll remember that word next time” and I feel sure he’ll teach her, “by myself” here soon.
He got tickled at her when, tonight after he’d told her he loved her, she said, “I love you tambem” (I love you too).
January 29, 2004
Portuguese has a diminutive (-inho/a) ending that makes words small or cute, sort of how we say, “little bitty.” So instead of just “boneca” (doll), you could say “bonecinha” (“dolly”). She’s been adding that ending to the end of English words too like, “boxinha”
I also noticed that she said, “Agora…” (Now) but when she realized that Stephen, not I, was the one paying attention to her, she repeated it in English, “Now…”
February 6, 2004 Today I ate lunch with Leila and she told me of a lady sitting next to her with her young daughter. The lady said everything first in Spanish then in English, using both languages perfectly. Leila finally just had to ask why she did this and she said it was because her husband didn’t speak Spanish and was frustrated when his daughter used words he didn’t understand. So the mother had taken it on herself to teach both languages.
I wouldn’t recommend this method but it does highlight the frustration the monolingual parent feels at not understanding. I would argue that it is therefore that it’s the monolingual parent’s job to take on the responsibility of teaching the child the majority language during the time available…the rest of the majority language the child will get living in the majority world.
February 10, 04
Today the library called me because I’d inquired several weeks ago about getting some books in Portuguese for Sydney. They have 10 books for me and I’m thrilled.
February 16, 2004
I’ve been reading up on teaching sign language to help babies communicate and Stephen and I are going to teach the new baby some signs. We chose 21 signs that we agreed would be useful. I put the drawing/description of them on a pretty card (a large one) and hung it on the fridge. Also made a couple of pages of those same signs for Sydney’s loose leaf book. She loves the signs and after going through them 5 or 56 times (usually looking at the fridge sheet I made while she’s eating breakfast), she knows all 21 by heart and even says some new words like “para baixo” and “amor” that she’d never said before. This way, I won’t have some secret code with the baby-it’ll just be more like she’s helping me teach the baby. I may use more of the signs (there are nearly 100 the book suggests) because she picked up these so easily.
I have journal entries up until the present day (age 4 1/2). Contact me if you'd like for me to add those to the wiki. I will eventually, but if I hear of a specific interest, I'll focus on it sooner.)
CGJ 09:19, 28 July 2006 (MST)