Friday, 24 August 2012

Another reason to introduce more than one language from birth

The beauty of speaking two (or more) languages, when chatting with another person able to speak them too, is that it allows you to mix the languages up and, in doing so, have an altogether more precise conversation.

In general, languages tend to be like a Venn diagram - they overlap in the middle but have distinct differences around the edges. Words that can express a feeling or concept in one language may simply not exist in the other.

Poppette is already beginning to use this to her advantage. As I have mentioned before, Poppette always answers questions that I ask her in French with "Yes" or "No" in English. She does, however, regularly use the French word "Si".

Now, for those of you who do not speak French, the word "Si" means "Yes" but is only used in answer to a negative question e.g.:

Me: (In French) "Oh, so you don't want a piece of cake then?"
Poppette: "Si" (Yes, I do).

The use of "Si" serves to stress that she is contradicting my statement. It's as though she is saying "Yes I bloomin do want a piece of cake" to my suggestion that she might not. This concept doesn't exist for us English speakers. We have to add extra words to our simple "Yes" to get the point across.

Having only one word for "Yes" in English, it can be a real task for English speakers to take on board the existence of "Si" and, ultimately, to begin to understand when and how to use it and do so freely.

The fact that Poppette has just picked up the word and uses it 100% correctly is another big tick in the box for the benefits of the simultaneous learning of languages from birth. Poppette has no preconceived ideas about, of course, it is not in the slightest bit odd to her that there is more than one way to say "Yes" when speaking in French.

Do you have any other examples of how words can be borrowed from one language and dropped into conversation in another in order to make conversation more precise and to exploit subtle nuances between languages?

1 comment:

  1. I loved it when my two started using 'Si'! It's so brilliant that they have a way to express this sentiment in such a neat way :-) German speakers will know the concept, as they use 'doch' in this way. German seems to have quite a few words that you sprinkle into sentences to subtly alter the sentiment, eg 'gerne', which means that you would like it a lot.