Thursday, April 28, 2005

"Developmental Linguistics" Dept

I was having lunch yesterday with two friends whom I had just introduced to each other. Veronika and Viktor are both Russians who have been living in the U.S. now for many years, and each has a child who was born and has been raised in America. We wandered onto the subject of how little success we had all had at getting our children to be bilingual, and how little Russian my Russian friends' kids can speak, and eventually Veronika asked me, "So, Kenny, the kids you adopted from Kazakhstan -- can they still speak any Russian?"

"They understand only the Russian that they have to understand to keep me from punishing them," I answered. "If I say, 'Eto ni igrushka [That's not a toy]!," and they answer, "Ya ni ponyimayu [I don't understand]," they get in trouble; so they still know what that means." Viktor and Veronika both started grinning.

I continue, "So, you know, they still know, 'Speshi [Hurry up]!'" My friends' grins get wider. "And, 'Tikho [Shh]!'"

Viktor and Veronika both start laughing, and Veronika says, "What a coincidence -- those are the same Russian words that our kids know!"


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