A Bilingual Child: Recasting as language modelling

Bilingual Child, passive language, recasting language, Curitiba, BrazilOne of my original goals when starting this blog was to document my son’s bilingual acquisition.  I had images of writing blog posts about his ability to communicate in English and Portuguese, and maybe even starting to learn a third language.

As so often in life, things haven’t quite panned out as I had hoped.  I only speak English to Mr T, but he nearly always replies in Portuguese.  I am not especially worried about this as I know he has an excellent passive knowledge of English because he understands what I’m saying and we have great conversations, just in two languages.

I am reluctant to ‘force’ him to speak English because I don’t want him to feel stressed out by trying to find words he doesn’t know.  I am sure that when he is ready he will speak as much English as he wants and until then I value our own personal style of communication.

While I don’t make Mr T speak English, I do encourage him.  If he wants me to get him something, or if he wants to be allowed to watch yet another episode of Ninjago, he has learnt that if he asks me in English he stands a better chance.

Another strategy I have used is one I have imported from teaching English in class.  If a student makes a mistake one way of correcting them is to recast the phrase.  For example, a student says ‘He like pizza’, the teacher can recast this by saying, ‘Oh, he likes pizza?’  The advantage of this is that you are able to provide a correct model while not necessarily obstructing communication.  There is, however, a downside in that it is not entirely clear that all students notice this form of correction.

Nevertheless, I have used this tactic for the last couple of years with Mr T.  If he says ‘Olha pai, meu dragão é vermelho!’  I recast it in English by saying something like ‘Wow, your dragon is red!’  In my mind this provides more exposure to language that he is interested and so, one day, will move from being passive to active.

We’ve started to see some improvement in his willingness to use English in the last few weeks, so maybe this strategy is starting to pay off.  Or perhaps it is truly useless and something else we are doing is working instead.

 

I’m back!

After a long time away, I'm back to continue blogging about Brazil, Curitiba and bilingual families

Last July, I decided to take a break for a few weeks from blogging while I got some work done and caught up on my real life instead of my virtual one.  I managed to get some work done, but then more and more came in and real life really is fun.  This meant that a few weeks turned into a few months which became 9 whole months.

In all that time I was still thinking about blog posts I could write, but never actually sitting down and writing them.  I kep putting off my comeback post until recently I realised that I would either just have to write something or give up on the whole idea completely.  I enjoyed my time blogging so much I decided that I would just have to make the time to get back into it.  And so here I am.

I’m aiming to write something roughly once a week, but we’ll see how that goes.  I’m going to continue writing about bringing up a bilingual son, life in Curitiba and generally about Brazil.  I have this idea in the back of my head to re-design the whole blog, but we’ll see how that goes.

Anyway, for now, it’s just good to be writing again.  I hope to keep it up for a while and stop just thinking about it.

 

A Bilingual Child: Little Daddy

Bilingual Child, Brazil, English, Portuguese

Brazil may be a huge country, but Brazilians love making everyone and everything in it as small as possible.  One thing I noticed early on when learning Portuguese was the prevalence of the suffix –inho or –inha.  They use it on the end of words to form the diminutive, and they use it all the time.

This means that a ‘coffee’ (café) becomes ‘cafezinho’, ‘grande’ (big) can be ‘a little bit big’ (grandinho), and ‘never’ (nunca) can be ‘never, ever’ when it is used as ‘nuncinha‘. 

Even the word little itself ‘pequeno’ can be made even littler by saying ‘pequeninho’.

However, a small t-shirt (camisa) is not a camisnha because camisinha means condom.

This little suffix be used to mean something is actually small but not exclusively so.  It can also be used to show familiarity, friendliness or that something is just so damned cute.

The basic rule is that you add –inho to masculine words and –inha to feminine words.  However, if the word ends in the letter ‘z’, or vowel other than ‘a’ or ‘or’ then we have wither –zinho or –zinha, depending on the gender of the word.

English uses the diminutive a lot less than Portuguese.  Footballers and children are fond of adding a ‘y’ to the end of names to sound familiar, so that you will hear them referring to their teammates as ‘Scholesy’ and ‘Giggsy’.  In terms of more formal English, we have imported the suffix -ette from French so that we get words like ‘kitchenette’ and ‘cigarette’.

There are also different varieties of English around the world that have their own diminutive forms, like my dad shows his Irish roots by adding -een to the end of various words, for example, ‘Would you like a cuppeen of tea?’ is a common expression in our house.

In general, though, we don’t have a common diminutive form, and when we do use it we are nothing like as proficient as Portuguese speakers for employing it.

An advert for Coke in Ecuador makes fun of the Brazilian predilection for diminutives

Diminutives in Action

Mr T has picked up on this in his Portuguese and is enjoying playing with words and liberally adding –inho to them.  He was begging me to let him watch Batman the other day and, because we have a rule that he can only watch at night the answer was no.  But he is nothing if not persistent and so asked if we could watch Batmanzinho, or just a little batman.

Mr T couldn’t tell you the rule about when to say –inho or –zinho, but he has shown us that he is aware of it.  He did this when playing with the English word ‘daddy’.  First of all he called me ‘daddyinho’, but he knew this was wrong almost as soon as it came out of his mouth.  A few seconds later he repeated himself, but this time said ‘daddyzinho’.

I liked this because it shows he is being creative with his language, playing with it to get new words and meanings.  He also did it with a look on his face to suggest he knew what he was doing was a joke at my expense and that he also knew that he shouldn’t really be doing this in English.

The only downside is that I am little daddy and not big daddy.  But at least my name isn’t Shirley.

More on diminutives in Portuguese

Portuguese Language Blog

Portuguêse é Massa (Portuguese for Foreigners)

 

Image

Big Daddy by Paul Townsend CC BY-NC 2.0

Living in Curitiba: The Goldilocks City

Living in Curitiba: The Weather

The people from Curitiba, Curitibanos, are like most people I have met in that they love to complain about the weather.  They are fond of lamenting the fact that there can be 4 seasons in each day because you must have clothes to cater for each of the seasons.  In the summer, half of the locals continually moan about the insufferable heat, and in the winter the other half just bang on about how cold they are.

The last couple of weeks have seen an upswing in these grumblings as the weather has changed from a pleasant Indian summer into a wet and cold autumn.  Not that I am complaining, though.

The Goldilocks City

I have written before about how the bi-polar weather here in Curitiba can be a problem when you have small kids, and this is mainly because the infrastructure in homes means it is often colder indoors than it is outdoors.

However, as far as the actual weather is concerned, I have come to the conclusion that Curitiba is blessed with what must be close to being the best weather in the world.

You see, when it’s hot it is rarely too hot.  I have lived in both Rio de Janeiro and Taipei and in both of those cities it can regularly hit 40, and then stay there for months.  In Curitiba if it gets to 35 it is unusual.  As well as needing less air conditioning, this has the advantage of keeping dengue away (for now).

And when it is cold, it is rarely too cold.  It can get down to zero for a few days, but never the -20 with snow from November to Easter that I experienced when I lived in Poland for a year.  The advantage of this is that you can wear something other than shorts every day of the week.

And ok, it can be grey and overcast a lot.  But not like London.  I spent one winter in London when I didn’t see the sun for about 4 months.  This was because I went to work on the underground in the morning and when I came home it was already dark.  On the weekends it was either wet, cloudy or I was in bed recovering from a particularly hard night.

When it is cloudy in London, it can be cloudy for months on end.  When it is hot in Rio, or freezing in Poland, it will be like that for a long time.  In Curitiba, in the midst of a freezing and wet winter, we can have the odd beautiful, warm day.  And when it’s been over 30 for a couple of weeks there is a good chance that the next few days will be wet and only in the 20’s.

We don’t get hurricanes or twisters.  We don’t have earthquakes or volcanoes.  We live far enough away from the sea, and high enough up the mountains to not be worried about Tsunamis or the rising seas due to global warming.

We get the odd storm which can result in some floods and sometimes a landslide, but nothing like other parts of Brazil.  The storms we get are proper storms with rain lashing down, bolts of lightning and claps of thunder.  Powerful, invigorating and amazing.

And so Curitiba is the Goldilocks city because it is never too hot and never too cold.  In fact, it is usually just about right.

Images

Goldilocks by Vlolscraper CC BY-NC 2.0

Old, modern and organic in Curitiba by Radamés Manasso CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

A Bilingual Child: Linguistic Coincidence

Linguistic Coincidence 3On a trip to see my parents a couple of years ago Mr T was just starting to use individual words.  He had aninclination to create his own names for certain things, the most memorable of which was ‘abudah’ for ‘car’.  Unfortunately, that word has now been replaced by the more conventional ‘car’ or ‘carro’, but there is one word from that time that has stuck around and, I daresay, is likely to be with us for a while yet.

We were in Ireland walking down a country lane from our hotel to the town of Athenry when Mr T started shouting what sounded like ‘dodo’.  The pronunciation was remarkable similar to the long extinct animal, except there was more stress on the second syllable.

It was quite obvious that Mr T wasn’t referring to a stupid bird that was a great meal for sailors in the 17th century, but we had no idea what he was actually talking about. After a few seconds, and an increase in decibels, it became clear that Mr T was actually trying to get his granddad’s attention.

Ever since that day everyone has referred to my dad as ‘dodo’.

There were lots of theories as to why Mr T should choose have chosen this name.  Among them included the fact that ‘dodo’ is similar to the Portuguese word for granddad: ‘vovô’.  Personally, I didn’t think this was true because I wasn’t sure Mr T had made the connection between his granddads in Brazil and the UK having the same relationship to him.

Portuguese also provides us with ‘doido’, which is a word similar in meaning to ‘fool’.  It’s possible that this was what Mr T had in mind, although it wouldn’t be very flattering to my dad.

It was a source of family discussion, with no answer being possible and so lots of theories could be floated.  We had almost decided to just let it go and live with the word when my brother and I stumbled upon another possible answer, or perhaps just a strange linguistic coincidence.

A “strange coincidence” to use a phrase

By which such things are settled nowadays

Lord Byron ‘Don Juan’ Canto vi. Stanza 78

A Curry and a Language Lesson

In the first week of our holiday in the UK before Christmas, we went for a great curry in a place called Kababish in Moseley, Birmingham.  After the great meal, my brother and I decided we fancied a few extra beers, and so went to a pub around the corner.  We happened to find my cousin and her husband propped up at the bar and so proceeded to have a great evening swapping stories with them.

One story was how Mr T was calling his granddad ‘dodo’.  To our surprise, my cousin’s husband thought this was the most natural thing in the world.  He was originally born on the Isles of Arran, just off the coast of Galway in the west of Ireland.  In that part of the world Gaelic is still used as much as, if not more than, English.  And it turns out that the word for ‘granddad’ in Gaelic is ‘daideo’ which sounds suspiciously like ‘dodo’.

Now, we were in Ireland when Mr T started using this word.  However, none of my family speaks any Gaelic so he wouldn’t have heard the word from them.  There is a slight possibility that he heard somebody else use the word, but would he have associated it with a name for his own granddad?  Unlikely.  Maybe it was just the Irish air or the Galtee sausages?

Linguistic Coincidence

A linguistic coincidence is occurs when two languages have the same word, or sound, for the same thing.  Of course, many languages are related, so often it isn’t a coincidence at all.  For example, the English word ‘excellent’ is similar to the Portuguese word ‘excelente‘, but this isn’t because of any coincidence, but because both words share a common Latin root.  By some estimates, there are over 3, 000 words which are remarkably similar in English and Portuguese, and you can find a list of some of them here.

Instead, a linguistic coincidence is when two languages have the same, or similar word but there is no connection between them.  There is an amazing list of linguistic coincidences on Johanna Hypatia’s blog.  Looking at this list I was firstly amazed at how many coincidences there are.  But thinking about it again, for al the words that exist in all the languages in the world, statistically speaking there has to be some overlap between languages.

And so that is where I think our ‘dodo’ or ‘daideo‘ comes from.  It is purely a linguistic coincidence that we will be marvelling over every time we get together as a family and can think of nothing else to talk about.  All I have to decide now is how to spell it.

Images used in this text are my own except The Shamrock by Ole Olson CC-BY-NC 2.0  and Language Diversity by Tobias Mikleson CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0

 

 

A Bilingual Child: A Mouth Story Before Bedtime

Bilingual Child bedtime story

A long, long time ago…

We have had a slight change to our bedtime routine recently.  Ever since Mr. T was a few months old we would give him something to eat, then a bath and finally a bedtime story before it was lights out and hopefully quickly to sleep.

It didn’t take him long to cotton on to the fact that both his mamãe and I, and indeed, all of his grandparents, are suckers for reading bedtime stories.  This meant he would often ask for just one more story and, depending on how tired we were, or how desperate for a glass of wine, he usually got at least 3 stories a night.

Recently, though, this story routine has changed.  He now asks for only two stories, one of which is a ‘mouth story’ and the other being an ‘eye story’.

What do you mean you don’t know what a mouth story is?  And you’ve never heard of an eye story?

With the simple logic of a three-year-old it is obvious that a mouth story is one which you make up as you tell it, while an eye story is read from a book.  You see?  Blindingly clear, isn’t it?

If there is more than one person around then he usually wants the stories from two different people.  I am usually the one to give him a mouth story, and either his mamãe or vovó reads an eye story.  This has the added advantage of him hearing both English and Portuguese before going to sleep.

One more vital element of a mouth story, besides it being made up on the spot, is that it has to be about Mr. T.  We have a clearly developed structure now, so that I start off by saying something like

Tonight I am going to tell you the story of the time Mr. T went to the Fire Station.  A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, lived a little boy called Mr Tin Curitiba, Brazil…

Most of these mouth stories are based on real things that happened to Mr T at some point in the past.  I think this helps him to develop his memory as he recalls aspects of the stories.  However, we are firm believers in never letting the truth stand in the way of a good story, and so we are both happy to embellish certain parts of the stories as and when we see fit.

So our bedtime routine has evolved a bit, but we are all very happy about it and, so far at least, it hasn’t resulted in Mr T trying to stay up any later.

Images: Sleepy v Bedtime Bear by JD Hancock – CC BY 2.0 and Bedtime in Inverness by Gene Selkov – CC BY 2.0

 

World Cup 2014: Brazil Is Still Here

Brazil fans after losing to Germany 7-1 in the World Cup

After the game

Shame!  Embarrassment!  Humiliation!  Scandal!  Ignominy!

Words such as these were bandied about on Tuesday evening.  There were tears from more than one person.  A few arguments broke out.  Some wondered out loud if they would be able to go to work the next day.  Others swore the would never leave Brazil again so they wouldn’t have to face the rest of the world.

A couple of people predicted trouble.  There were going to be riots.  The country was going to rise up.  Everything would stop working.  The world was going to end.

It is true that a few people didn’t make it in to work the following day, but that was more down to the effects off too much bad beer than feelings of shame.  Apart from a few isolated incidents, there wasn’t much trouble, the country has risen up (much to the chagrin of people who should know better) and the world hasn’t ended.

Most Brazilians I know have reacted to the 7-1 loss to Germany in the World Cup semi-final just as I would have predicted, if ever I though such a result were possible.  They have shouted at the TV, cursed Galvão (if they still watch him), cried a bit, opened a beer, cracked a few self-deprecating jokes and got on with it.

One very interesting thing for me was the speed with which jokes and memes hit the internet.  Midway through the 2nd half I was seeing some great stuff on Facebook, and most of it was by Brazilians.  This shouldn’t have been too surprising Brazil is a very connected country, but the speed with which they accepted the inevitable and then started joking about it was impressive.

In newspapers and on TV there is talk of conspiracies and recriminations in the Senate.  But most people I have met have talked about it a bit, and then got on with whatever it is they needed to do.

There does seem to be a bit of a divorce between what the media are talking about and what Brazilians I know are talking about.  This was evident right from the start of the World Cup.  Hardly anybody I spoke to really expected Brazil to win.  There was hope, but no expectation.  There was a realisation that this team was far from a vintage one and that there were other stronger teams in the world.  A few suggested that simply by being at home they would have an advantage that might see them win, but this was never going to be anything to build all your hopes on.

And so now most eyes are turned to the final on Sunday.  Nobody really cares about Saturday’s 3rd/4th place play-off, and most people seem to think it is a waste of time and should never be played.  The only thing that could really upset people now is if Argentina win in Rio de Janeiro, but even that, I think, wouldn’t be the end of the world.

World Cup for Kids - Multicultural Kid Blogs

This blog piece is a part of the Multicultural Kid Blogs series on World Cup for Kids.  If you would like to follow the World Cup from the point of view of kids around the world then please go and check out the site.  There are bloggers from all of the competing countries as well as articles about Brasil and how to get kids interested in sport.