domingo, 11 de mayo de 2014

Me Speak Spanish!

Cookie Monster has come home to roost.  Again.

Honestly, this has nothing to do with a Sesame Street obsession, on the part of me or my children.

But, six months after one child stopped talking like Cookie Monster, the next one started up.

Joey:  Me take bath no.  [I´m not going to take a bath.]
          Me hit you no.      [I didn´t hit you.]

Et cetera.  His syntax is wildly out of place.  Instead of referring to himself as a noun, he´s gramatically an object.  Always.

But he does get his point across.  At least to those of us who converse with him on a regular basis.

And this is what we all struggle with when we learn another language.  Watching my children learn both English and Spanish, and reflecting on my own experiences of learning Spanish, I´m convinced that there are stages and phases that we simply can not skip over.  We can not pick up a Learn-Whatever-Language-in-10-Easy-Steps book and walk away a fluent speaker.

Taking it all in.
Like my friend Belinda, who attends the International Church´s Bible study in English.  She needs the English practice.  She struggles with English.  Most of the time at Bible study, she spends the entire two hours just listening, trying to follow along.  Just like infants for the first two years of life.  Before kids have the physical capabilities to utter a word, they´re spending quite a bit of their energies figuring out what we´re saying.  (And don´t forget that they can hear in the womb--so don´t talk to your infants like they can´t understand you.  They just might.  And if it pisses me off when people pass me off, thinking I don´t understand Spanish, I´m willing to bet a baby feels just the same.  Respect your babies´ intelligence, peeps!  OK, end of tangent.)

And bless Belinda´s heart, she keeps coming.  And she keeps listening.  And one day, she´s going to work up the nerve and SAY something in English--because let me tell you, this woman has plenty to say!  (In Spanish, at least.)  ;)

But oh-so-frustratingly, her English is most likely going to come out sounding something like Joey´s.  He´s certainly improving with leaps and bounds and Belinda will, too.  Heck, up until this fall, Clara was still talking like Cookie Monster in Spanish.  She would literally say, ¨Me quiere una galleta.¨  [Me want a cookie.]  So when the speech teacher came to evaluate her, they were probably thinking, ¨Dear sweet heavens--why does this four-and-a-half-year-old talk like a two-year-old?¨

Up until her enrollment in school, she had limited practice at speaking Spanish, so she needed a few months of Spanish immersion for three hours a day before she could sound like a typical preschooler.  She now does.  She speech teacher is ready to release her.  However, Clara is in love with her speech teacher, so maybe I´ll teach her how to lisp so she can keep going to see her ¨Spanish¨ teacher.

This reminds me of my study-abroad semester.  In one of my classes, we were asked to write a biography of a figure from the Mexican Revolution.  It had to be about two to five pages long.  In Spanish, of course.  I was a twenty-year-old college sophomore.  Clearly, I was pretty well-versed in the process of writing, and I had gotten pretty good at it.  Two to five pages?  Please, I could do that ten minutes before class.

Fortunately, I did not put the paper off that long.  It turned out to be one of the most difficult papers I had to write in my whole college career.  Of course, in English I could analyze and synthesize, wax poetic and make all kinds of interesting points about the life and times of Francisco I. Madero.  However, in Spanish, I couldn´t reason much beyond fifth grade level. All of a sudden, it became very difficult not to plagiarize.  I couldn´t get beyond the barest facts of his life.  ¨He was born on . . . He was from . . . He did this . . . Then he did that . . . blah, blah, blah¨--for two to five pages!  Did I mention this was one of the hardest essays I ever had to write?  And it turned out to be the worst I wrote (since elementary school).  Comparatively speaking.

As an elementary education major, it was a fascinating experience to feel like I was inside a fifth grader´s brain again.  But as a twenty-year-old, it was frustrating.  Well, shoot--maybe that´s a huge part of the reason why fifth and sixth grade were so difficult for so many of us.

But the point it, I did it.  I persevered.  Just like Clara persevered with her Cookie Monster Spanish and is now talking like her peers.  I´ll take a leaf out of her book and continue to persevere with Spanish and someday--just maybe--I´ll talk like my peers, too.  (A girl can dream.)

And, for those of you who are not learning a new language, have patience with those language-learners who cross your path.  Learning a language, at any stage of life, is a long, slow process.  It´s a good deal more frustrating for those in the process of learning the language than it is for those trying to communicate with said language learner.  Have patience with us.  We´re trying.

We´ll get there someday.  

3 comentarios :

Jill dijo...

Tiffany and Yvonne--The Joey & Francisco Madero photos are for YOU two! ;)

Crazy Rita dijo...

My son did the same thing and he didn't have two languages to contend with. And he always use 'me' instead of 'I'. If it helps to know, my son is now entering his senior year as a biology major at Iowa State.

Jill dijo...

Yep, Joe will get there, too. And then he can go on to be the pilot/boxer/mechanic/preist/Mexican Michael Phelps/dress model/chef, etc. that he wants to be.

The world is open to those Cookie Monster types. ;)