Hezbollah, the Cumin-timer, and the Box

At the Singapore airport last Sunday. We had South-Indian food for lunch, and North-Indian for dinner. I also got four Rasgulla, a Bengali paneer (home-made cottage cheese) based dessert.

image

Me: Do you want to try this Leila? It’s called Rasgulla. I used to eat a lot of this when I was little. Really yummy.

Leila: Did you made the Hezbollah by yourself when you was little?

Me: WHAT? No Nani (grandma) used to make it for us a lot. Here, you want to try the rasgulla?

Leila: Yes, I want one Hezbollah.

image

——-

Me: Leila is the humidifier on? Can you check please.
Leila: Yes mum, the cumin-timer is on.
Me: It’s a hu-mi-di-fi-er.
Leila: Difier.

——-

Maher: Vous voulez aller a Starbuck avec moi, les gars? Comme ca on laisse maman faire son “practice”?

Leila: Starbox. C’est un “box” papa.

Me: Come on guys, it’s Starbucks.

Leila looking at me from the corner of her eyes: Ok papa, let’s go to Star BOX.

image

——

How to Make Rasgulla: Indian Dessert Recipe

Frenglish

“We speak Frenglish,” Rahul and Leila say as they squeal with laughter at the discovery of this new “word”.

They often use both French and English words in their sentences. Although we are a OPOL (One Person One Language) family, and are pretty consistent with it, the kids are now mixing up both French and English words in the same sentence.

Sometimes, they even use French sentence structure in English, like Maher does when he speaks English. I don’t remember what is correct anymore myself.

Frenglish –
“Papa is travailling.”

“I am cherching the ball.”

“Can you leve up your arms.”

“I want to aller to the pont now.”

“Can you go avec moi?”

“Who c’est ca?”

And then Rahul hesitated with “what” in the two languages.

Quat?”

A Bilingual Family Shifts Easily Between Languages
Bilingual Brains are Better
Myths About Bilingual Children
Montreal Comedian Sugar Sammy on Multilingualism
Franglais

Papa speaks Francais

Early one morning a couple of weeks ago.

Leila: Where’s papa?

Me: He’s on a plane, going to Houston, in America.

Rahul: Like the pilgrims?

Me: Yah, to America like the pilgrims. But he’s on a plane, not a boat, so he’ll be there by tomorrow.

Leila: Can you be papa?

Me: What do you mean can I be papa?

Leila: Papa talks French. You talk French.

Me: Woah. Oh. Tu veux que je parle en Francais avec vous?

They both look up at me, eyes gleaming. And smile.

Rahul: Papa talks Francais.

Me: D’accord, on peut parler en Francais.

Leila: Papa. Papa, I want to go to Etats Unis.

Me: On va aller aux Etats Unis bientot cherie. T’en fait pas…..

(Ten minutes of French later)

Me: Ok guys, come on, let’s go downstairs for breakfast.

Leila: Nooooo, you are papaaaa…you talk French.

Me: Ah, oui. J’ai oublie.

Rahul: No talk Francais mama. Talk Anglais. Waaaa. You are mama now.

Hip Hop Stories

Me: Today is Saturday. Do you have school today?

L & R : NO!!!

Me: Hey, Anna goes to a hip hop dance class on Saturdays. I think it’s a lot of fun. Do you guys want to go with her today?

Leila: I already know hip hop. It’s on one foot. But I only like to spin.

Me: Oh yeah, you hop. Well sometimes you dance on one foot and sometimes on both. So let’s go!

Leila: But how time until flip flop? I want to go with Anna.

Me: After lunch.

Rahul: Hip hop is a dessert.

Me: Oh yeah? What does it taste like?

Rahul holding a pretend pan over the stove: It’s a pancake.

Me: Oh yeah, you flip it huh?

He lights up.

What Hip Hop Taught Me by Jenna Marbles

25560427-081939.jpg

Starbox

4am.

“Maaaamaaa. Waaaah. Mama.”

Me, slipping in between the children, “What’s up Rahul?”

“Where’s my book?” he asked, as he frantically felt around the mattress and floor.

Me: Which book, this one?

“NO. The one with rabbits and the balloons.”

Me: Uhhh….rabbits and balloons, is it this one then?

Even more agitated, Rahul: Not that one. With rabbits and balloons.

He’s either dreamt about floating rabbits, or it’s something from school.

Me: Ok, come over here my love. Try to sleep again.

————————————————

That afternoon.

Me: What do you feel like doing Rahul?

Rahul: I want to go to the slides.

Me: But it’s raining outside now. The slides and monkey bars are all wet and slippery.

Rahul: Where’s Leila? And papa?

Me: Leila’s gone to Decathlon with papa. Today it’s me and you, together!

Rahul: I want to go to the box place.

Me: What box place?

Rahul: The BOX shop, where we went yesterday.

Me: Hmmmm. What did we do there?

Getting frustrated, Rahul: We played with boxes and stickers.

“Ummmm…”

Think fast. Think fast.

A few days ago we bought stickers for the kids and then hung out in a section with cube-like furniture at…

“Star…bucks? Starbucks!”

“Yes. Starbox,” he lit up.

“OK, let’s go get stickers from the shop next to Star BUCKS, and then we can share a hot chocolate.”

“OK. Let’s go!”

Past Tense

Some phrases I’m hearing often nowadays:

“I do’d it already.”

“I taked off / take offed my shoes myself.”

“I pick upped the clothes.”

“I comed here before.”

“I throwed it….”

“I bringed it…”

“I catched it…”

 

Parenting and Practicing Yoga / Remedies for an Unwilling Mind:by Desi Valentine

As part of the series : Parenting and Practicing Yoga

Desi: I’m a mother, corporate refugee, grad student, quiet activist and child care provider.  I live in Canada and write about grace, joy, hilarity, leg hair, living healthy, and learning with kids over at The Valentine 4: Living Each Day.

Remedies for an Unwilling Mind

I’ve been practicing yoga for about 17 years, now.  Not every day.  There has been the occasional month-long break (after which my body inevitably retaliates celebrates the return to practice).  I rarely do classes – preferring to sweat and fart in the privacy of my own home – but sometimes the group experience provides a depth of movement I can’t achieve on my own.

There is something magnificent about a group of people breathing and moving fluidly together, each of us present only to ourselves, but also bathed in the warmth of humanity….

Anyway, I injured my knee a few weeks ago, running hills in a state of numb pissed-off-ed-ness (OF COURSE, that’s a word!).  I know about the stages of grief, and I know about mourning and pain.  I know that it does pass and that time really does heal.  However, when you’re of the variety that can’t stop moving, it takes a wet rock on a gravel hill and a tendon that hasn’t been stretched in weeks to plant you back on your ass for a while.  I don’t like waiting for things to pass.  I prefer to move through them.

Occasionally with claws extended.

This past month, I’ve been at the gym three times a week to do low-impact cardio on the elliptical trainer and core building with the rowing machine.  I also do 800m or so of lane swimming once a week at the rec centre, while the hubs and the kiddos play in the wave pool.  And there is biking the kids to and from playschool twice a week, plus that never-sitting-down thing that comes with Life With Kids.  I’ve been moving a lot.

Primarily with claws extended.

Twice a week, my house is empty for a couple of hours.  That’s my dedicated yoga time.  I get out my mat and my favourite Vinyasa Flow DVD, and I work through sun salutations and body prayer and patiently attempt to retract my claws.  Success on that last point has been rare, lately.  This morning, I lay on my mat at the end of the practice as I always do.  Watching my breath.  Feeling each muscle let go in its own time.

Watching my breath.

Something released in my right shoulder.  Where my son rests his head and tells me he’s so tired.  Where my daughter lays first her hands and then her cheek to wish me goodnight.  Where my mum plants her chin when she hugs me goodbye and says “Always remember, don’t ever forget.  I love you.”

I lay on the mat while tears made my earlobes itchy and my chest ached and I shivered with the effectiveness of corpse pose.  Not angry, anymore.  Not sad.  No longer clenched tight with fear and fury.  My shoulder moved down my back as I stood.  And for a while, for today, I can say that I don’t hurt anymore.  Not in my knee or my head or my heart.  For today, I let it go.

Yeah.  It might be time to get into a class, again.

© Desi Valentine 2011.  All rights reserved.  Text and images are not to be reproduced or replicated without my written consent.  Contact me at desivalentine4 at gmail dot com

Lei La the Lao Wai

This evening my children and I spent a couple of hours running and playing at a neighbouring housing complex. A friend joined us. While the children were playing on the slides and mini monkey bars my friend stayed close to them, allowing me to respond to a text message on my phone.

A little girl accompanied by two men came over to play. Through the chatter, I heard Rahul say, “Ni hao shu shu,” (hello uncle), as he typically does when a Chinese man engages in some form of communication with him, or if he instigates the conversation himself.

Leila chimed in with her Ni hao!

One of the men asked how old the children are. My friend responded with the whole “They’re two and three months old, they know mandarin, yes they’re twins, not only that, they’re dragon / phoenix twins,” spiel.

“These foreign kids are the same age as you. Why don’t you play with them?” the man asked the little girl. He was beaming, bouncing internally, and obviously over-excited by the situation.

The little girl joined Rahul and Leila.

At one point the man shared the bars with Leila to stretch is his hamstrings; still smiling, he asked her, “Ni shi bu shi lao wai?” (Are you a foreigner?)

I was stunned.

“Lei-la,” she responded.

My daughter’s dignified response, albeit due to her ignorance impressed me.

Should I intervene? I wondered.

“Ni shi bus hi lao wai?” he repeated.

I couldn’t believe it.

“Lei –la,” she enunciated.

My friend, who is of Chinese heritage and fluent in the language explained that she is called Leila.

I wanted to say something; at least ask how he expects a two-year- old without the slightest notion of this concept or of the word at all, to respond. I mean he insisted.

But his “blissful” demeanor made me think that he obviously didn’t think it strange at all to ask this of a two year old, let alone ask it.

Or was he making fun of us because he thought I had no idea what he was saying? I have no idea.

I joined the group and a few minutes later Rahul and Leila were chasing me around the play area. The man told the little girl to join in, to chase “the two little foreigners, and the big foreigner.”

We ran and played.

Competitive Advantage: A Guest Post by Desi of Valentine 4

As Part of the series: A Monday Morning Guest Post in Multicultural Mothering.

Desi posted this on her blog yesterday; it’s the second time she has written about the controversial book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother”, by Amy Chua, a book I have heard a lot about and . Check out her post for the interesting discussion that follows. http://thevalentine4.com/2011/11/13/competitive-advantage/

————————————-Competitive Advantage———————————

I’ve written about Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, before. http://thevalentine4.com/2011/08/21/on-tigers-and-happiness/

I found the book fascinating, for a lot of reasons, not the least of which was Chau’s first chapter assertion that her parenting methods were “Chinese” by title, and “immigrant” by definition. I don’t get that. I mean, I am a (sort of) first generation Canadian. My mum was born here, but my father is from Nigeria. On some archetypal level, I think I might understand the immigrant drive for their children to achieve.

Maybe. I’m not clear on how that drive is significantly different from every parent’s desire for their kids to succeed.

I did do very well in school. And I also have an intimate understanding of what it was to be a visible minority in a predominantly white community. People look at you. People pay attention to what you are doing. They talk about it. And, though I took my share of racist insults, the vast majority of my classmates and administrators were by no means cruel. Just sort of separate. In the friends but not best friends, seeing each other but not dating, helpful but not involved, sort of way.

Or maybe it was just me.

Chau’s kids were academic achievers. Homework always completed, they did the bonus questions for extra marks, and studied hard all the rest of the time. And that’s my point, I guess. She approached parenting with the expectation that her children would do well. She put them through more grueling hours of practice and revision than I would. She committed more means and time to finding good private tutors than I would. She punished them more severely for low effort than I would. But our expectations of our children’s successes are not dissimilar. Like basketball players in the inner cities, like hockey players in rural towns, they practiced a lot as an extension of community. And excelled.

My kids will do well in school. I believe that firmly. I expect that of them. We are an afterschooling home with learning resources everywhere, and education in all its forms are integral enough to be family values, around here. I have no beef with rote learning, standardized testing, or memorization. I think we need to know the information in order to interpret it, and while these methods do not give us “knowledge”, they do imbed the data from which meaningful interpretations can be made. I think that kids’ work should be graded, that poor effort should be investigated and remedied, and that competition is only harmful when tied to self-worth.

I am aware that these are not necessarily popular views. If the backlash on Chau’s book is any indicator, these are very unpopular views.

But then I think of articles I’ve read about adults in their twenties and thirties who don’t know how to be happy, and all of the books and films devoted to defining and improving “happiness”. I think of parents calling into universities to argue on behalf of their adult children, data on the dangers of “over-praising”, reports about the growth of experiential learning, pioneering research into inquiry based learning, the Waldorf and Montessori approaches to teaching young children…. And a woman overheard on a call-in radio show who believes very firmly that all children in elementary school should be protected from standardized testing, grading, competitive sports, and measurable academic achievement. I think about the free-range kids movement, and the exponential growth of Kumon and Sylvan learning centres. About a dear friend’s conclusion that “the smart kids will do well in any school”. I think about the open concept approach of our most recent “student-led teacher conference”, and the parents who had no choice but to hear how my daughter is thriving in school. (Seriously. How is that helpful to anyone?)

On some level, it feels like we’re rushing madly off in all directions. And for some of us, that means bringing at least part of our children’s formal education back home.

One final admission: My family is using Rosetta Stone to study French, while our daughter attends a French Immersion school. She loves going through the program on my computer, and is always thoroughly annoyed with me when I tell her she has to stop. We’re doing this, in large part, because we like to learn new things together. But the other part? The minor part? The less socially acceptable, teensy bit embarrassing part?

We’re doing this because there are francophone children in her classroom, and I expect her to keep up with them.

I’m skeptical that this has anything to do with my ethnic background or “immigrant status”. I haven’t yet met a parent, regardless of parenting style or doctrine, who did not want more for their children than they themselves have. Though the individual definition of “more” does vary.

What do you think? This post is scattered like my thoughts are, I know. How would you piece it all together?

© Desi Valentine 2011. All rights reserved. Text and images are not to be reproduced or replicated without my written consent. Contact me at desivalentine4 at gmail dot com

Only French?: A Guest Post by Pascaline

(As part of the series: A Monday Morning Guest Post in Multicultural Mothering)

Pascaline: Born in Greece, I grew up in a bilingual French / Greek environment. I lived between Greece, Africa and France. My husband, “I”, French of Lebanese and Syrian origin is also multilingual: French/English/Arabic, and has lived in France, Africa and Canada. We are both what some people call, “Third culture kids,” our parents being expats for most of our childhood. In 2008 when we decided to move to China, we became expats ourselves.

In January 2011, I gave birth to a baby girl, N.

——————————————- Only French? ————————————————–

“What languages do you talk to your baby?” I am often asked after introducing our family. Immediately, I feel awkward,”We speak French.”

“Only French?” is the standard reply.

I feel guilty.

My husband and I speak 3 languages fluently. We both speak French at home. I speak Greek with my family; he speaks Arabic with his. We speak English with our friends; we live in China, so Chinese is always around.

So, “Only French?” makes me feel really guilty.

Am I a denying my daughter precious knowledge?

Long gone is the time language specialists believed that having more than one language around babies “pollutes” their abilities and results in poor command of the language. Complaints or disadvantages ranged from: the bilingual child speaks later and less than others of the same age, he will have difficulty in his language development, and he will never be able to speak one language properly.

Today the (same?) specialists say that bilingual children are more creative, more open and flexible than others. Being bilingual is to be equally comfortable in both languages and have references in two cultures allowing to understand and accept differences.

So many advantages, so why is it so hard? Let’s be honest, to raise a child with two or more languages requires hard work. It’s easy to give in to pressure from the majority language – French for us – and forget the minority languages (Greek and Arabic). Both my husband and I learned our second languages in an unusual way.

My husband learned basic Arabic from listening to his mother – since he was a baby – talking to her friends on the phone or over cups of coffee. At first, he had a basic understanding, and then by interacting with people who speak Arabic, his ability to understand and speak has developed more naturally.

I was bilingual until the age of 7; my mother spoke Greek to us. When she passed away however, French became the only language at home. I completely forgot Greek. At the age of 12, we moved to Greece and I had to take Greek classes – beginner’s level. Despite that, I discovered that it was easier for me to learn Greek compared to my French classmates, I didn’t remember a single word from my childhood, but I was able to speak and write faster than the others, and I didn’t have a French accent!

I want to talk to my daughter in Greek. I want her to learn about Greek culture (and no it’s not only about the lousy financial situation, riots and paying of taxes for many generations). I want to find those sweet Greek words and I want to sing those Greek lullabies from my childhood. Later, it will be up to her to choose: to either develop it, or to drop it. But at least I would have given her the basis for a good start.

A close friend told me that in order to maintain the minority language to a satisfactory level, we have to offer the child a rich and stimulating environment in that language – books, songs, friends.

I bought Greek Childrens books, but I always pick the French and English ones. The animals in the Greek books look at me strangely.

When I play lullabies for my daughter, even the Spanish songs sound better; the Greek ones are awkward.

Greek family and friends? As most people living away from their countries, we see them once a year, not long enough for our daughter to learn anything. And where we live now, we speak English with our friends.

So we have the books and the songs and a few friends, but with a common family language (French) and a social language (English), where can poor little Greek fit in? She hears a lot of French, some English, and some Chinese, but we speak only French to her.

And I still feel guilty.

Greek just doesn’t come naturally.

How did you introduce a minority language to your kids? How did you deal with it?

Related article – Hearing Bilingual: How Babies Sort Out Language
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/11/health/views/11klass.html?_r=2: