Thursday, November 12, 2009

No Know Ingliss Pliss

I speak to the Bhabs in Bengali, mostly. Till he was about 2, I spoke to him in Bengali only. To ensure that he learnt it properly, mainly, but I also did improve my own fluency. (Or so I thought but more of that anon.)

Anyway, so when he joined school last January, I figured his teachers would teach him English. I believe they've been trying to do just that but with a marked lack of success. People told me I need to rectify this 'failing', because it would hamper him in big school but really, come on. English is my language of choice. Vicky and I speak about as much English in a day as we do Bengali. Even if we didn't speak it to the boy, he definitely heard it. So I was puzzled and rather suspicious when I was told that he can't follow the language.

A month ago his teacher requested us to please speak to him in English at home so that he'd be more comfortable trying to speak in it as well. Vital for school admissions, apparently. So I tried, didn't get very far, although he did learn enough to call himself Sunayana Roy and me Soubhik Niyogy and his jethu (the BIL) Kingshuk Sharabh Niyogy. Still, no real progress seemingly but all the while I was more and more convinced he followed us perfectly when we spoke in English.

Yesterday we were at Giga's in the evening, out for a little airing after a flue-ridden fortnight. Dididi (aka Giridi, Giga's help) had just returned from the shops, bearing a carton of juice for Himself when I decided that he ought to have dinner instead. The following conversation took place:

Me: Let's not give him the J-U-I-C-E just now.

Giga: Is the J-U-I-C-E here already?

Vicky: I think she's back.

Little Pitcher: Eshe gechhe? ("She's back?")

The next time somebody tells me he doesn't understand English, I'll, well, I'll probably make them babysit for a week. If that isn't punishment I don't know what is. Not only can the little blighter understand us all perfectly, he is also picking up on the spelled words. Whatever next!

23 comments:

Mama - Mia said...

sounds like my story. teacher told us that Cubby cant follow english too well because we spoke to him mainly in Hindi.

i kept thinking he will anywayz pick up inglis in school! and yup the l'il mite understands everything!!

and dont even get me started on big school saga!

cheers!

R's Mom said...

heheheheh! HE is one smart guy isnt he??? Actually even I had this prob when I started leaving R at the daycare..my MIL used to speak to her only in Tamil and then she wouldnt understand any Hindi or Gujju or English...so now a days..I try and speak to her either in Gujju or English..and hubby speaks to her in Tamil...:) I dont know what she understands though :)

Kanchan said...

I am in the exact same situation. I speak to my son in Marathi and he speaks it well. His fathertongue is Kannada and he is fluent in it too. But he doesnt speak in English - no matter what. Though he understands it well enough to translate it in 2 languages for us...even the spellings. And I know the need to spell - J-U-I-C-E (though he doesnt like soda ones, we call them spicy juices for his sake).

Shrabonti said...

Oh man, do I hate parents who only speak to their kids in English even though they don't speak it that much between themselves. I just don't get it. I mean, who spoke to us in English at home? I know my family didn't and I'm doing passably well, I would say. And like you've pointed out, they pick it up all the time as it is, also from TV and all. In fact, A is highly enthu about speaking in Hindi -- I'm guessing from all the Gali Gali Sim Sim -- and I think she's doing brilliantly.

Sue said...

Abha -- Giga's a junior schoolteacher and she's always said kids who come from non English-speaking backgrounds always ahve a hard time picking the language up. Yet in your case and mine, I hardly that applies! I'm sure Cubby will speak it when he wants to, as Rahul will too.

R's Mom -- You bet she understands it all. It may take her some time to separate the languages when she speaks, but multi-lingual fluency is something she'll always thank you for.

Kanchan -- How old is your son? Mine's 3, so technically at the best age to learn lots of languages. LOL at spicy juice. Rahul doesn't much care for sodas either so far, thank god, although I'm sure he'll learn to love them soon.

Shrabonti -- Aw, how cute is that? Another recent surprise was the realisation that Rahul probably follows a fair bit of Hindi, given that many of his schoolmates speak it.

Aathira said...

Interesting to see that teachers think the kids dont know English... where as they are in fact smarter than them...maybe they act like they dont understand to get off from some punishments ;)

Kanchan said...

Sue - Adi just turned 3 and you are right about languages. The more exposure they have, the better. I think, in another 1 year, we will have the soda battle on our hands :(

hack said...

he called his jethu Kingshuk Sharabh Niyogy? ki darun chhele!

hack said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
starry eyed said...

Kids absorb a lot more than we realise, but express it at unexpected times. A psychologist friend of mine calls it receptive language and expressive language. Have found precisely the same thing with dhruv. he acts like he doesn't understand, and we give up frustrated, and months later, he blurts it out and proves he got it the first time!

Mamma mia! Me a mamma? said...

Babe, don't worry about it. By the time the EO went to school, he was fluent in English as well as Bangla, but not so with the YO, who was fluent only in Bangla. I used to worry my head off...needlessly. My little one speaks delightful English now...complete with Noddyisms and YOisms!

dipali said...

You're in real trouble if he's smart enough to follow the spelled out words!

asaaan said...

I have the opposite battle here.
I speak mainly English with the spouse and the kids speak excellent English.

But then they dont speak Hindi. They understand it but dont say anything,

The 10 yr old speaks it pretty fluently but only with grandparents.

The younger 3 who knows what goes on their minds.

I grew up speak English, Bhojpuri, Mandarin and then learnt Malay in school. And I feel for my kids who are only learning one language. :(

karmickids said...

I was told to speak to the brat only in one language because he wasnt developing speech, this by the pediatric neurologist and the speech therapist. Well, what do you know, we did speak to him in English and Hindi, since the elderly relative is comfortable with Hindi and English is to all purposes the language I think and speak in. The maids then were Maharashtrian and spoke to him in Marathi, the neighbours were Gujarati and spoke to him in Gujarati. The fellow understands all these languages today, and can even follow a smattering of Bengali and Pahadi. Speak to them in every damn language I say. If I had a chance I would play German and Russian and Chinese television to him, am sure he would pick those up too...

Poppins said...

Oh ha ha. I think he deliberately acts like he doesn't understand English in school - best way to escape any mention of classwork I say :)

I can't believe a child of yours (with your flawless English) would not eventually pick it up.

Ron said...

Shrabonti: You were thinking of Babachele when you wrote this comment werent you? Its so nice to see parents consciously doing tht opposite of Babachele's atrocious parents.

Sue, will tell you the Babachele saga if you really wanna know about it.

Gayatri said...

- lol ...Wow! 3 and he can already pick up spelled out words? amazing...my son is 4 and he knows its a secret if he finds us spelling out stuff :b

- I think kids pick up languages so fast...my son had 20 something nannies ( yeah have to write a book on that) from different parts of India and he picked up so many words in hindi,telegu, english, tamil and malayalam ..sad they forget it if they r'nt in constant touch with the language

Sue said...

Aathira -- Oh, I don't quite blame the teachers. My son is very good at looking blankly at you if he doesn't want to understand what you are saying.

Hack -- He did. :)

Kanchan -- Woo hoo, yenjoy.

Starry -- My term for this is, "Out to get Babu". You will notice this sort of behaviour is always the kind that manages to make the mum look silly one way or another...

M4 -- But I never said that I was worrying, did I? I said I was suspicious. And boy, was I right!

Dipali, Gayatri -- To be honest, I don't think he's really spelling words yet but he's learnt that J-U-I-C-E is juice, that C-H-O-C-O is chocolate and, well, I'm not ready for this kind of pressure!

Sraikh -- So what language do you speak with the kids? I speak to Rahul in Telugu and French occasionally, it keeps me in touch with some vestiges of these languages and I love their terms of affections anyway.

Kiran -- Kaise log hain yeh? ROTFL I'm going to say that every chance I get. You're right, of course, the more languages the better. I deliberately make the effort to be multi-lingual now because I know what it's like to feel uncomfortable around unfamiliar languages and I want to make that experience as painless as possible. So he may not understand Telugu but at least he doesn't feel weird around Telugu speakers.

Poppy -- I agree, I think he does it on purpose, to some degree. ;) He does understand English almost as well as he would if that were the only language I ever spoke to him. Just that he doesn't like to advertise this little fact, the horror.

Ron -- Bolo, bolo. I'm all ears.

Gayatri -- Woah, that's awesome. Whether they remember the languages or not, I love how these languages sink deep into their psyches.

the mad momma said...

oh please. i was told the same when the brat could only speak hindi. we insisted on it and its all he knew. but i told them the teachers they could take their opinion and .... well, you know me, so you can finish that sentence yourself. he speaks perfectly good english now and i'm glad i stuck to my guns.

Sue said...

MM -- When he joined in Jan, they assured me they'd handle the English side of things. This year, just before admissions, a worried Aaantie told Vicky to please speak to him in English a bit. Knowing The Bhabs, I felt a little sorry for her. Apparently she'd tried to coach him for the admission test and he'd replied to all her queries with her own name. Like so:

What's your name? S--- Aaantie.
What's your father's name? S--- Aaantie.
Which school do you go to? S--- Aaantie.

I don't think they pay those poor women enough...

Ron said...

Well theres this couple here who absolutely INSIST on talking to their kid in English. Even though they are both Bongs and speak Bangla with each other and us. To make matters worse, the mother addresses her son as Babachele. So the resultant conversation is bizarre and unspeakably nyaka. For example "Babachele no dont eat that dirt from the floor" "Babachele come eat the luchis with the alur dom" so on n forth. Its rather difficult to keep a straight face when these conversations are going on.

Monika,Ansh said...

Ansh wants me to change his school coz they force him to speak in English & he does not like that.

Sue said...

Ron -- ROTFL. How creepy. :D

Monika -- Aww... and one day he's going to get used to it and answer all your questions in English, I bet.