Lately Fin has been asking, “What does that mean?” anytime I say something to him in another language. The other day they were running around, screaming and yelling.
“¡Callate!” I yelled out. Whoops! Did I just yell at them to shut up??? (A reflex as this was the way I first learned to say “be quiet” when I was a kid. The lady who watched me after school often yelled it at us when her soaps were on. I loved that woman!)
Fin stopped in his tracks. “What does that mean?” He asks in (of course) English.
“It means… Be quiet. Well, it actually means shut up.” I chide myself.
“Oh, ok.” Screaming and yelling resumes.
“What does that mean?”
“It means, be quiet, please.” I sigh inwardly at the game.
Screaming and yelling (and a bumped knee) follow.
So he’s heard me say “callate” enough to know what it means. And he has certainly heard me say “ruhe” more times than I can count. So why is he asking me what stuff means when he knows the answer? Because his strongest language is English and he wants to know exactly what it means in English? I don’t know.
He’s very involved in different languages lately. He often asks me to “speak Spanish”, by which he means to speak any language other than English. Thanks to Dora and the like, he calls every language that isn’t English, Spanish.
I’m taking advantage of his recent fascination of languages by introducing Mandarin on the sly. I don’t know much Mandarin so their exposure is limited to Ni Hao Kai Lan and Mulan played in Mandarin. I’m learning as quickly as I can so that I can start speaking it to them on the regular. There is a wonderful woman at the library we like to visit who is from China and speaks fluent Mandarin. I’m going to make an effort to bring them to the library when she’s there so we can practice with her. I’m also looking for other opportunities in my city for us to practice Mandarin with native speakers.
So now we have English as the majority language with both the environment and the Husband speaking it. Next comes German which I speak to them and they get through music, dvds, and books. Next is Spanish, again spoken by myself and through entertainment. However this one is the easiest besides English to practice in the environment. Mandarin is last, purely through entertainment right now though as I learn I’ll speak more to them.
I was very torn on introducing a fourth language, especially when the third is still pretty weak and they aren’t entirely fluent in the second yet. However Fin is so interested in languages right now (and by extension, Dul, as it is easier to get him to play along when his older brother is doing it and getting approval for doing so) that I think it would be a shame to waste this time.
I’ll have to think about it and come back tomorrow with my rough draft plan on how I’m going to juggle the four languages.