Monday, July 12, 2010

Bilingual, trilingual...multilingual and loving it

At one of our recent bedtime stories, or rather, now bedtime rhymes time, dear S started singing a rhyme in Hindi! I was amazed. Because I didn't know he knew any rhymes other than English and Kannada ones.

I guess playschool does make a difference. And I recalled how at admission time they told me they teach children rhymes in three languages so that they can pick up all of them and develop their language abilities. This is the age apparently, when they are able to learn most of the languages that come their way.

I've also suddenly started noticing that he repeats bits of conversation I have with any other family member. He'll at least catch and repeat the last three words. Which, i feel is great.

So he now understands (some of them mostly only in parts)
1. My/husband's mother tonuge
2. The national language
3. My mother's mother tongue
4. English
5. The nanny's mother tonuge
6. ....and jeez, at the cost of sounding like a show off, even parts of my father's mother tongue

That totals to five Indian languages. Hmm till i put it all down as a list, I didn't quite realise it.
He loves saying the word "water" in four languages every time he asks for a drink and i love that. Absolutely.

I know there are arguments saying kids get confused. I'm not too sure about that. With dear S, i guess he associates one language with each person, so he absorbs and uses that language with that person alone. Let's see how it goes in future.

I was a multilingual kid myself, and I can manage speaking about six languages myself. And I don't think I got them all mixed up. In fact it worked to my advantage because I could hear a speech for example in one language and immediately take notes in another, like English, translating along the way.

But there's the BIG disadvantage to sonny boy's language skills -- he picks up the not-so-nice words really fast. He's then like SpongeBob. And between me, hubby and brothers-in-law, that vocabulary of such words is pretty vast. I believe there's a certain ring, a certain aura to these words that just beckon children towards them, seduce them into using them. And there will be a gleam in his eye as he realises he's saying the forbidden word. And once you say "don't say that word" that's it. It's like a special invitation to say the word in loops, over and over again, the voice raising to a crescendo with each utterance, till you've got a earworm.

As of now, though, most of the time I simply enjoy the pitter patter of words and new sounds.

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