Tuesday 1 November 2011

Sorting Fluency degrees

At the dinner table.
BK1:"I know French better than Arabic. I know German better than French" Pause "I know English better than all!"
Me:"What do you mean? Written, read or spoken languages?"
BK1:"I can speak, read and write English better than all the other languages. I can speak German better than French. My written German is the same as French. Did you know "v"in German is written "w" as in Wickie? I cannot write Arabic. Actually I can write "aa", "baa", "taa", hm "maa" (writing the arabic letters in the air)"
Me:"What do you think of this?"
Me:"I think you speak Arabic better than you think you do."

This is actually a close assessment of BK1's degrees of fluency. Why did she feel the urge to classify her languages? I felt a slight disappointment in my heart that she realised Arabic was her weakest language. However, I think this is not the whole picture. She is at an age where reading and writing are very important. She assesses her fluency based on her literacy skills in the different languages. This encourages me to carry on introducing her softly to written Arabic.


  1. What a great post.
    I TOTALLY agree about the reading/writing thing for 6 year olds.
    Sofie (6 1/2) spends most of her day speaking Swiss German, but still refers to English as her 'best' language.
    Right now I think it still is, but she can read and write in English, and not Swiss German (which isn't actually a written language anyway). However in the past 6 months I have seen her drifting more towards Swiss German, and even using the occasional Swiss word in place of an English one.

    I think in a year or so when she has learnt to read/write in German, that will be her dominant language, despite only speak English at home.

    But whatever she classes as her 'best' language, nothing will take away the fact she will be fluent in several, which is the whole point really.

  2. Glad that you confirm my observation on literacy and language fluency at this age Fiona.
    your last sentence is greatly put, thanks for reminding me how amazing an opportunity our children have.

  3. very cool that the kids are so aware (and unaware at the same time) of their linguistic capacities! I've often wondered how my bilingual kids view their languages and your experiences are definitely providing good insight.

  4. Thanks for your nice comment Rebecca. Indeed, I was intrigued by my daughter's self-awareness of language capabilities. It can be hard to keep the momentum going when they have so much to express, and the language that is the easiest for them is not my native tongue...


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