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Elaine’s multiple language skills

Elaine is Start of the Week!

Last week Elaine was chosen as Star of the Week for her Nursery class, and so her picture was put at the entrance to the school. Elaine was very proud of her achievement, and of course I am also proud of her being the first Star of the Week in her class.

I am also proud of her language skills, and how easily she switches from Dutch to Chinese and to English. Her Chinese is now basically fluent, her English is quite good (and even better than Scott when he was 2 years and 4 months old) and her Dutch is already at a basic level (she understands most Dutch things I am saying to her, but her vocabulary is not big enough yet to really talk back to me in Dutch).

Sometimes things go a bit wrong though, especially after I come back from a business trip and she did not hear nor speak any Dutch for a couple of days: on Saturday she came to me and asked me “You leave me papa?”. I was a bit surprised by her question, I thought she was asking me whether I was going on another business trip. But no, it turned out she was trying to find out whether I like/love her, and she used the Dutch word ‘lief’ for that, which does sound very similar to to English ‘leave’. She was using English grammar, however, so it took me some time to figure out what she meant.

Another example of a Dutch mistake that she makes and that always makes me laugh is when I ask her what she is eating (=’Wat eet jij?’). It happened a few times already that she answered ‘Elaine’. It took me a bit to figure out why she answered with her name, but then I realized that she thought I was asking her her name, which sounds similar in Dutch (=’Hoe heet jij? -> Eat=eet, your name=heet).

Swimming with the kids before sunset

Scott, who is now 3 years and 9 months old, is now fluent in Chinese and almost fluent in English and is very good at Dutch. He can even translate things from Chinese to Dutch or English for my parents when they come to visit. That can come in handy sometimes with our staff who only speak Chinese.

It’s amazing to see how quickly kids pick up the languages we speak at home and how natural they switch from one language to the other. Interesting is also that the kids often speak English among themselves when their nannies are around (so the nannies can’t understand what they are saying) and Chinese when they are with my parents in Holland (for the same reason). But if they ask them something they switch to another language without even thinking. Wish I had learned Chinese and English at their age already…

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