06 January 2010

The Words That I Think In

One night, over the Christmas break, I was talking to my niece on Skype.  She asked me to speak to her "in the language you speak over there."  It's a bit tricky coming up with things to say in French without being in a conversation (at least at this point) so I asked if she'd like me to read her a story (figuring I could find a French children's story pretty easily via google).  "Little Red Riding Hood" she said.  So I googled "Little Read Riding Hood in French": Le Petit Chaperon Rouge.

I began to read: Il était une fois une petite fille de village, la plus jolie qu'on eût su voir ; sa mère en était folle, et sa mère-grand plus folle encore. Cette bonne femme lui fit faire un petit chaperon rouge, qui lui seyait si bien que partout on l'appelait le petit Chaperon rouge. Un jour sa mère, ayant cuit et fait des galettes---

"Um, AuntieDeb."
"Yes, B.?"
"I don't like the story in the words you use where you are.  Could you read me a story with the words I think in?"
"Oh, you want me to read you Little Red Riding Hood in English?"
"No, AuntieDeb. I want you to read it in the words I think inNot the words you say where you are."
"Yeah.  I'll read you the story in English, not French." By now she was getting a little bit impatient with me.
"Well, as long it they're the words I use when I think."

She's four.  I was blown away that her description for language was "the words I think in."  She doesn't categorize her words as a language the way we adults do.  For her they are just natural . . . they're in her head.

Most of the time when we talk on Skype she asks me things like, "AuntieDeb. what do they call a rainbow where you are?" Arc en ciel (literally: 'the arc in the sky') and "How do they say 'red' where you are?" Rouge.  (Oh that was a fun one: she responded with "No, AuntieDeb. it's Rojo!")  So I love that she has the understanding that I'm learning a new way to speak . . . so long as I only speak to her with the words she uses to think!

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