Philip Newton (pne) wrote,
Philip Newton
pne

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Who uses which language

Yesterday at supper, I had said something to Amy and Stella, thinking I had been speaking to her but not having heard me, asked me to repeat myself.

So I said it again, verbatim (i.e., in English).

That seemed to amuse Amy quite a bit. "You spoke to Mummy in English!" So I said, "Oh no! Now she didn't understand me!"

And Stella said, "I can!" Which amused Amy again.

So I talked a bit about who uses which language to whom.

I asked Amy who speaks English to her. "No." Does Aunt Elaine speak English to her? "Yes." Auntie Jennifer? "Yes." Aunt Ireen? "Yes." Grandpa? "Yes." Oma Inka? "Nooooo. You're being silly! German!" (Heh.)

What about Frederick? "English and German." Emily? "German."

Can I speak German to you? "Nooooo." Can you speak German to me? "No." So interestingly, she seems to feel fairly strongly that we should only use English between ourselves.

I wasn't that surprised at the first of those last two answers—I think it would feel odd for me to speak German to her now, much as it feels extremely odd for me to speak German to my father (I try to avoid it if I can), but I wasn't sure what to expect for the second question. I was a little surprised, but gratified, that she seems to feel that the language she speaks to me is English.

Perhaps that's a function of time, too. While she used to speak a fair bit of German to me in the past (no surprise; it's her stronger language), she's used more and more English to me as time has gone by (and, presumably, she feels more confident in her vocabulary and her grammar). So perhaps she feels that now she can use only (or, at least, predominantly) English with me.

Fortunately, she's also not afraid to make mistakes, for example, when she doesn't know a form of a verb. (Though she does hesitate sometimes and try to remember a word rather than reach for the German one immediately.)

And when I repeat what she said (which I do frequently, as much to ensure that I understood her correctly as to provide the correct form or word), she doesn't seem to take differences from what she said as criticism for using a wrong word.

So, all in all, yay! I'm rather chuffed at Amy's competence in English and her willingness to speak it to me.

Tags: amy
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