Tuesday 20 April 2010

What defines the language of a sentence

"Ki ngetty even bigger". This is supposed to be Arabic for "When I get even bigger". Notice the percentage of Arabic in the original sentence. Hardly a quarter. It is worth noting that Babel Father still could not make out what she really meant.

This is a definite trend in the way BK1 (who was 5 in March) speaks to me, a trend that has been going from strength to strength since she started school last September. She would basically use the Arabic pronoun, then conjugate and modify English verbs and adjectives in Arabic, as in the original example. This in her mind produces an acceptable Arabic sentence. I try to insist that she use more Arabic words, and not simply "Arabicise" English sentences. But, how can I blame her for this when I do exactly the same thing with Arabic and French...

Over the 2-week Easter break, there was noticeable improvement, in that she used more orthodox Arabic phrase constructions. This was brought about by more time with me, and meeting our Algerian friends more often than during term time.


  1. Heh, my almost 5 year old does this, too. Just that her sentence is usually all German, except for one word, often the verb, in English, although conjugated the way it would be in German.

    As in, "Mama, ich möchte erst das Buch finishen!!" (Mama, I would like to finish the book first!!)

    It's not something I do, and I'm trying to get her away from this, but I don't always remember either. I think she mainly does it because she thinks of the English word first and it's easier than to pause and think of the German word. With prompting, she can usually correct herself - but if I let her get away with it, it tends to get worse. She doesn't usually insert German words or parts thereof into her English, though.

  2. Thanks for the comment SmashedPea. BK1 does this with German, too, where the sentence is mostly German except for the English verb (conjugated in German).
    It seems to be different with Arabic, she sees it as a "mixable" language since I do mix it with French. So she does it too, just that she mixes Arabic with English, which she masters obviously better than French.
    Hum, will just have to hope her Arabic will become "cleaner" when we go to see my parents in the summer.


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