Monday, 25 July 2011

Mbukka-mbukka? (Can I have a piece of that cubumber please?)

Last semester I did a course on bilingualism which I found fascinating – not only because I am raising bi(multi)lingual children but that was a huge part of it. While doing the course I realise how useful it would have been to keep a record of Lily’s language (speech) development. I figured that here is as good a place as any to keep a record of Ernő’s not least because it will show his development in the context of the events in our lives (not that I think you are particularly interested in the details of what words Ernest says when). I am starting a bit late though since he has been using words for quite some time now.

Side note:           The main textbook for the course was :
                               Grosjean, Francois (1982) Life with Two Languages Harvard University Press
 I know it’s old but my lecturer claimed that no better, comprehensive book on the topic has be written since. Grosjean has a current academic blog with more up to date articles, since many of you have multilingual children too you might find it interesting.

What he calls/called us:

“Apa” (Hungarian for dad) was the first word he used to address both Gábor and I; I really meant “Parent or other grown up person, I need your help”. Since he was saying “Apa”, I also tried to encourage him to say “Mum”. I don’t know if he thought I was correcting him or if he just thought two different words was unnecessary, but “Mum” completely replaced “Apa”. Soon after that though he noticed that the other kids in the park called their grown up “Anya” (Hungarian for mum) so, since Gábor was the one who took him to the park most often, Gábor became “Anya”. And this is how it was for quite some time; a language destination but not a gender destination.  Gábor has recently become “Apa” again.

Since being back in Finland Ernest has pick up another word from the other children. He uses it when he is stuck in the swing or when he falls over. The word is “Aiti” (Finnish for mum).

“L” is pretty difficult to say so Lily is “Ee-ee”. Ernő likes to help us cook dinner and is pretty perceptive when it comes to knowing when the food is just about ready. He sets of to find his sister “Ee-ee! Ee-ee!” and drags her to the bathroom to wash hands. While he knows that his name is Ernest or Ernő he never really refers to himself yet, however he does say “Ernő” although he normally uses it when someone is doing something that he doesn’t like or misbehaving.

One of his first words (if not the first (I told you I should have started this earlier, I am already forgetting specifics)) was “tessék” (it’s a Hungarian word that you can use to mean “there you go” ie. when you are giving something to someone, or it can be used to mean “here you are” for example the stall holders in the market use it to call in customers). Ernest uses it when playing these games of passing items back and forth to mean “there you go” or “can I have that now?” or “thank you”. The other day though because I was responding to his handing me things with “thank you” he started to use “tes-you” with me.

“Tessék” (or tes-you) only means “can I have that?” in the context of these games though, in other circumstances he says “dub-a-day” (now is where it would be useful to have stuck with the phonetic transcription classes (if any linguist friends want to help out with this project skype me or something)), that is unless what he wants is a fruit or vegetable when he uses “mbukka-mbukka”, which we suspect stems from uborka and paprika (cucumber and pepper in Hungarian in case you couldn’t guess).

I have also recently noticed him starting to differentiate between “bye bye”, “pá pá” and “hej hej”, he hasn’t completely figured out who to use which one with and when but clearly knows they are the same/same but different.

This is of course not the full extent of his vocabulary (more an introduction) but this (I hope) will be an ongoing project.


HELP: Does any one have access to “The International Journal of Bilingualism” from 1997? There is an article I would really like to read, “Language Contact in Bilingual Two-Year-Olds and Code-Switching: Language Encounters of a Different Kind?” ,but the subscription through Oulu University only goes back as far as 2003.

This post has been included in September's Blogging Carnival on Bilingualism, please check out the other articles on the carnival list.


Katie said...

I actually find this really interesting - I was an au pair one summer for two kids who were being brought up bilingual, and I got really interested in that sort of thing then. I read a few articles (mostly about Turkish-German bilingualism), and I remember one talking about Turkish children who start kindergarten having spoken only Turkish at home and having no knowledge of German at all. They would pick up German fairly quickly once in the group, but despite not understanding it initially, they would then not realise that it was a completely different language, and when their parents came to pick them up and asked in Turkish how kindergarten was, they would often respond in German (and since many Turkish women in Germany can't actually understand much German, this must have been quite difficult for the mothers!). The 3 year old I cared for had a really good grasp of both English and German, but he would mix up words occasionally and also sometimes use German word order in English sentences. I think children's language development is really fascinating, and am looking forward to hearing more about your experiences!

Anonymous said...

He he. The lack of distinction between mama and papa happened in our house too - we were the mamapapas or, sometimes, the papamamas.

I was wondering the other day if I should be recording my new baby's babble. I understand it's different for different languages and I wondered if a bilingual child's babble would show it. I was too late for my eldest, but I have a smaller one now. Of course, then I;d have to find some monolingual children to compare with, so perhaps a bit too much effort.

Sarah @ Baby Bilingual said...

I'm very glad that I kept track of my son's utterances in both languages (until it got unwieldy after his spoken languages exploded sometime between two and three). The linguistics nerd in me really had fun figuring out what he meant and analyzing how he was using what words in which language in which way.

You probably know this already--but Grosjean published a new book on bilingualism last year. What did you think of his original one?

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