segunda-feira, 30 de junho de 2014

Field notes on a bilingual Cora

Lots of people are curious about raising Cora bilingual and find it "sooo cute" when she spits out her interwoven dialect. Here are some notes of how this process has been unfolding, for those who are interested: 

She’s turning bilingual before our eyes. It used to be she would only say one name for an object – in whichever language she caught onto first – so she would say “pé” but not “foot” and “shoe” but not “sapato” that sorta thing. But this last week I’ve been noticing her “duplicating” her words, so she’s been saying “grande” as well as “big”- in other words, somewhere in her brain, she has understood that these two words have the same meaning, but work in different systems. I also notice her switch her language when interacting with me and when I change what language I address her in. It’s pretty interesting. There’s a whole system in her brain that is activated and calls up English or Portuguese. However, there are still “holes” in each language which she covers up by activating the same word in the other language. In other words, we’ve got a whole tower of Babel situation going on here, and depending on who’s around her, they do not understand one darn thing. But I do. I understand it all and am so in love with watching language blooming for her, and I LOVE being fluent in Cora. 
She started calling me Mommy, where before she only called me Mamãe. That was a complete heart-melting moment for me. It’s interchangeable, but I wonder if she’s transitioning to Mommy, because I call myself Mommy when I talk to her. We’ll see!
More loose examples:
Mamãe graaaande, Cuncun, baby!  She say’s “baby” to mean “little”. Hehe. Cute or what?
She’s saying “happy” too, except it’s Appy, because the H sound is not coming out yet, so that also means that, in Portuguese, she says ATO for “rato”
She says “yes” like “ice”, but more like “eeeesss!!””

Oh, and the best one yet – she’s using “has” – like, Cuncun has teddy! Before she only said “Cuncun tem” And verbs are starting to gain a past tense too…she’ll say “biu”’for abriu, or “pegou” “trouxe”…In English she’s not using that many verbs yet (just has, fall, up and down in the sense of go up and go down, and the beginnings of an "is" before adjectives) so I don't really know yet. But she was using the possessive s before, but she sorta stopped doing that. Where do these things disappear to? 
And it's the darndest thing the things she picks up on and how they pop up maaaany days later - I had no idea she had noticed or understood something, and then she goes and uses it spontaneously, I was not actively trying to teach it to her. I can't think of an example right now, but it happens al the time. Oh, "boat" is an example, I think I mentioned it once in a book, not giving it much thought because, hey, it's not like we see boats around our house here, so I thought she wouldn't be able to grasp the concept…but then we went to a place near the lake and she keeps repeating something I can't understand, until FINALLY i get it - BOAT!! She's saying boat and frantically pointing it out! 
Every day brings about so many new words and funny new phrases and combinations of languages, that I'm taking it for granted, stopped seeing how amazing that is. I try to always remember and register some of the more noteworthy examples, or just plain cuteness. 

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