Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Plant Your Feet!


When our boys came home, they spoke Amharic.  Mikias was 4 when he arrived and Jemberu was 3.  We were told that learning English would come quickly.  It did and it didn't.  Basic language came quickly.  Six years after Mikias's arrival and four years after Jem's, there are still challenges.  One struggle is acceptable language use, I'm talking about bad words.  The other is what Mikias used to call 'figgers of speech', the use and understanding of idioms.  

When Mikias played his first season of baseball, the coach was working hard to get him into a proper batting stance.  He finally got Mikias where he was positioned to hit the ball, he said, "That's it Mikias! Now plant your feet!"  Mikias, careful not to move his feet, crouched down and covered his feet with dirt.  He was confused when we all cracked up.  

This past December, Kurt and I watched the movie 'Fred Claus' with the boys.  Kevin Spacey plays a big meanie named Clyde Northcutt, who is basically trying to shut Santa down.  During one particularly tense scene with Clyde, Jem whispered to me, "Can I say a bad word about him to you?"  I was pretty sure he was going to tell me that Clyde is a 'real piece of crap' (it was his current 'bad word').  I thought that was appropriate so I told him to fire away. He did, "That Clyde is a real sonofabitch, right?"

"Sorry Jem, bad word, not allowed."

"Dang it!  I like that word!"

"It's actually 4 words, but not allowed."

I know how he feels, some words or phrases just feel good and right when we say them.  Fortunately I know which ones are socially acceptable and which are not.  I am working on that with him.  Some that are not socially acceptable that he really loves, he is allowed to whisper to me (like piece of crap). Some I have to rule against altogether (like son of a bitch).  His fascination with words is both embarrassing and funny, it all depends who is nearby.

Recently, Jemberu's teacher told him that a worksheet he was doing was a 'piece of cake'.  He looked at her funny.  He had no idea what she meant.  She ran a few other idioms past him and he didn't understand any of them.  She gave him a sheet of common idioms and helped him with their meaning.  She also encouraged him to use them when making conversation.  Now a typical conversation can go something like this:

"Hey Mom!  Whoa, you look sad, are you down in the dumps?"

"No, I'm fine."

"Guess I was barking up the wrong tree!"

"You sure were."

"Will you look at the weather?  It looks like it is about to rain cats and dogs!"

"No it doesn't.  It's sunny!"

"Your right!  I was close but no cigar, right Mom?"

"Nope, not even close, there's not a cloud in the sky"

"You're kind of grumpy.  You may have a chip on your shoulder!"

"I'm not grumpy!"  I say laughing

"Fine but if you ask me, I think you're all bark and no bite!"

Maybe he's right.  When it comes to language and the boys, there are days that I know I am on the right track, that they are getting it.  Other days, I feel like I am in over my head.  Either way, I hope they know that they are both the apple of my eye.






6 comments:

  1. Language is so interesting. It's interesting to me that kids born in this country are just exposed to idioms so often that they just understand them, and kids who are not born here have to learn them!

    I liked the flow of the conversation... it made me chuckle.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! Speaking of chuckle every time I see that I have a comment from Cat's Litterbox, I chuckle too.

      Delete
  2. Too funny - all my kids were born here and the young ones still have trouble with some idioms...when Rosie was 3, I asked her to kick the cat out of my room.....and she did, literally....is it any wonder why our cat is unpleasant?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is funny! I know our girls (who were born to us) used to get goofed up with certain expression too. Maddy in particular would combine them to make her own (not on purpose). When she was 3 she would yell out "Okay everyone, let's pig in!" before we ate. I kind of miss those days. Thank goodness the fun continues with the boys :)

      Delete
  3. I stumbled onto your blog and have been enjoying it! Most of the amusing conversations at our house are about language and usage and grammar - raising me some nerds...

    Connie

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Connie. Thanks for stumbling by! I am trying to raise me some nerds too. I just need to curb the bad language first :)

      Delete