Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Lost in translation again

Le Petit now speaks with me almost exclusively in English. He will do simultaneous translations when necessary -- for his grandparents, most of whom are only comfortable in one language, or even for my husband, who speaks English fluently.

Yesterday when le Petit and I were home together in the afternoon, we tried to go on sesamestreet.org. The site wasn't responding, and I saw a keyboard-smashing tantrum brewing (I can hardly blame him, since I'm guilty of such tantrums myself) so I tried to calmly explain the situation to him.

"Sesame Street is down, hon," I said sympathetically. "I wish I could fix it, but I can't." Then I blabbered some largely nonsensical explanation about how the computer that lives on Sesame Street was broken. None of this helped much, but what did help is when I thought fast and quickly Googled "Lego" to find new games to play on lego.com.

Last night at dinner, le Petit announced to my husband, "Aujourd'hui, Sesame Street était tout en bas!"

My husband looked at him oddly, and it took me a moment to parse the sentence and realize that he was translating "down" literally, saying "Today Sesame Street was all the way down below."

Logical. Cute. But in the interest of cross-cultural communication, I'll have to remember to never declare "It's raining cats and dogs" in front of him...

5 comments:

paola said...

That's so great! They really don't need too much time to become more fluid in the other language I find. With my kids, it seems the holidays are perfectly placed, becasue just before the holidays they start 'prefering' Italian or start speaking Italian to each other ( they usually speak in English together)and then, whammo, a few days away from kinder and home with me, and they are back to prefering English.

I'm wondering how long this will go on for though. Is it just now seeing they have such elastic little brains, or will it continue until they are teenagers. Or more's the point, until they refuse to speak in English at all.

Goddess Babe said...

"I'll have to remember to never declare 'It's raining cats and dogs in front of him... " Because? Is there something I don't know about translating that particular saying? Just curious!

hush said...

Le Petit sounds so cute!! And clever, too!

I'm wondering if DS will ever actually speak in Spanish instead of just responding in English to everything said in Spanish. He is just so so so stubborn!

Cloud said...

That's awesome! And very cute.

Parisienne Mais Presque said...

@paola - I know, I wonder if le Petit's English will dry up when I go back to work in September. I hope, though, that even if they refuse to speak, kids hold onto the basic skills if you keep talking to them. In Versailles, where we're thinking of moving next year, there's a weekend school for bilingual English-speaking kids, to help them hold onto their skills and learn to read and write, as well as speak. It sounds intriguing...

@GB - "It's raining cats and dogs" would translate literally into French to sound as if cats and dogs are falling from the sky.

@hush - le Petit was pretty stubborn about it, too, but then it clicked... it's funny, because my American sister-in-law, who is married to my husband's brother and lives in Paris, doesn't have kids yet but is obsessed about the whole bilingual thing. Every time we saw her she hoped le Petit would deign to speak English, and every time he (mostly) refused. I can't wait for her to see the progress he's made.