Translating toddler

I’ve noticed an interesting translating habit of Monkey recently that I keep meaning to research more, but so far have only had the time to document it a bit.

We follow a minority language at home (mL@H) approach, however, most of what he watches is in English. He has tons of books in French, but we don’t have any French channels for the moment. He only likes Sesame Street right now, so French channels would go unwatched anyway. I am thrilled about his love of Cookie Monster (despite the less-than-ideal grammar example he sets), since anyone who’s ever watched it knows the show does a lot with letters and numbers. (And emotions, and friendship, and all sorts of other good stuff.)

There was a short on the alphabet, “A for Apple” “B for Bear” etc. and he started saying “A pour pomme,” using the French pronunciation of the letter A. He did this for other letters too “K pour chat” (they showed a kitten), before I explained to him “this part is in English, it’s okay to do it in English.” And when there was another short that was just the alphabet with silly drawings, he would repeat the letters back in French, like he was “translating” them.

So it seems as though he has 100% got the message that at home, we speak in French. Which feels great! And I am not too concerned about this impacting his eventual reading skills, because he is only two and a half. However, I do think he might be ready sooner rather than later to start to actually learn to read. He likes the “A pour X” game, and was saying at lunch today “P pour pomme, M pour maman, L pour Lily” (a girl in his daycare class). He can spell Elmo with the fridge letter magnets, which is kind of cool. I know most of his “reading” books is just from memory, but he’ll say the letters to a word and then say the word, so the skills and desire seem to definitely be there. And, interestingly, if it’s an English book, he’ll spell the word with the French pronunciation of the letters, then say the word in English.

One final translating thing recently happened while reading a (what else?) Sesame Street book. We were naming the characters, and when I pointed out Baby Bear, he said back “bébé ours.” Other things like this have happened, so despite reading quite a fair number of books in English, he seems to be fine “discussing” them in French, once again reassuring me that he understands home = French.

At daycare pickup/dropoff, he’ll switch to French with me as soon as we’re out of the room, but in the room he doesn’t want me to speak French; so it’s like, only parents around = French. Other people around = English. Except when it’s the Spanish-speaking teacher, and then he’ll say little words like “gracias” (but never “merci,” even when she asks for it in French). There’s actually someone in the office there who speaks French, but he doesn’t seem to want to speak it with her, so it seems to be a “family” thing for now.

I feel like someone reading this 30 years ago would be freaking out about his “mixing” languages. But we know now this is totally normal for bilingual kids, so I am not stressed at all. Quite the opposite – I think it’s insanely cool! And what I want to read more about is ways to show him French isn’t just for the family. French channels will probably help. But I think our trip to France next month will help even more! And we’ll definitely have to plan a Canada trip too later this year. He can be our little translator while we’re there!

New apartment

It’s interesting what we’re willing to forgive about our “new” apartment, simply because it isn’t new. And actually I think it’s called a “condo” since it’s just a two family house, and it feels weird to call it our “house” when we’re only in half of it. For a house built over 40 years ago, some creaking and drafty windows are to be expected (though we did mention the window to the landlord, to make sure our heating bill stays reasonable).

Our first apartment here in Boston was a brand new building, and no one had ever lived in our unit. So every single tiny (and not so tiny) thing we made sure to mention. Even the fact that we could hear our neighbors through the wall was upsetting, since you would think that a new building would have proper soundproofing. But even though we can hear our upstairs neighbors even more here in the condo, it doesn’t seem to bother us as much.

I think there are simply enough things we like about this place to be able to put up with the things we don’t. There’s a yard, with a plot for a vegetable garden. There’s a ridiculous amount of storage in the basement, and a new washer and dryer just for us. There’s a fireplace. There’s only one bathroom, but the shower head is new and movable (a big deal for a Frenchman, let me tell you). The bedrooms are not right off the living room, so we can watch TV at a normal level without worrying about waking anyone up.

Since this is the kind of property that is very common in the area, I wanted to at least try a two-family home before we rule it out of our house hunt. We have a goal to buy in 2 years, so we know the noise has an end date, and maybe that also makes us more willing to put up with it. Paying less than we were before also helps make it feel like the annoyances are “worth” it. Whenever you feel like you’re paying too much for something, you’ll be critical of every little thing. But if you think you’re getting a good deal, then it doesn’t have to be perfect.

The biggest thing though is that the neighbors have kids, so everyone is usually asleep when we are. Before we lived next to two young ladies who seemed to “wake up” literally the second we put our heads on our pillows at 9:30 every night. So as noisy as it is, the noise stops when we need it to. And it almost reminds me of my mother-in-law’s house where you could hear everything on the second floor. It’s only been a few weeks, but it already feels more like a home than our previous apartment.