Je confonds, tu confonds, elle confond …

September 18, 2009

“Lo-la! Lo-la! Lo-la!”

Piaf’s maman has – kindly but, as it turns out, foolishly – bought Piaf a Charlie and Lola book. As a TV programme, Charlie and Lola appeared to be one favourite among many, not even a primus inter pares. As a book, it has turned into an obsession of the sort you normally see on Five in “documentaries” about Americans who can’t stop washing their hands in Cif as they mutter “bad boy” under their breath. First thing in the morning, she wants to hear it twice (actually, she wants to hear it a third time and maybe more, but maman puts her foot down.) Bedtime is the same. The whole bilingual thing is turning out to be a great advantage to me. “Mais, Piaf, c’est en anglais! Tu sais bien que j’y comprends rien, moi! Si on lisait Le petit bonhomme de pain d’épice?”

 It is also quite a long book. All of a sudden, Piaf has found previously untapped reservoirs of patience (which, even now, are not consistently on display in other areas of her life) and does not seem to feel the need to skip pages or jump to the end. Temporarily – I hope – she has a clear preference for reading in English to reading in French.

I have to be very careful what I say, too. Until now, her milk was usually “lolo” but now I am afraid to use the word in case she thinks I am offering to read her the OCD book. 

Overlaps like this are not new, of course, and make understanding a task requiring intellect and goodwill from both parties. Her name for her mother sounds like “mammy” – perhaps a conflation of “mummy” and “maman”, perhaps just “mummy” in her funny little-girl voice. So when, as the last two days, mamie is visiting and she says “mammy”, who is she asking for? Is she going to start confusing her word for me – “daddy” – with her preferred word for “horse”, “dada”? 

For now, I am playing it safe. I consistently refer to myself as “papa”, never “daddy”; maman is maman, mamie is mamie, and never the twain shall meet; and, for the time being at least, milk is definitely going to be “du lait”.

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6 Responses to “Je confonds, tu confonds, elle confond …”

  1. nurmisur said

    They showed in Tv some time ago that babies can understand that you are talking to them in diferent languages. With time they will just ‘tune’ themselves with the on they listen more frequently, that’s why is so much more easy to learn 2 or 3 languages when you’re a baby than when you’re grown up.
    The main diference I see in my daughter is that she has just a few words that we understand, perhaps a little less than a baby with just one language would. But sometimes she calls me ‘maman’ and sometimes she calls me ‘mãe’ so she does understand that the two words have the same meaning.
    The only advice that I was given is not to mix up the languages, that is to speak only french or portuguese in on sentence and don’t mix words from diferent languages in the same sentence.
    Good luck with Charlie and Lola, altough saying you cannot understand english is pushing it LOL

  2. Tiny Trefusis often replies in English to Mr Trefusis, and in french to me – she’s two and a half. I mostly reply back to her in French and then repeat it in English. I’ve no idea whether this is a good thing or not, but then, i’m not the parent that’s doing the bilingual thing… She also has OCD for Charlie and Lola: I’m not sure I can bear reading ‘I will not ever, never eat a tomato’ again, but no doubt I’ll have to. The only french books I’ve found that she likes are the Gaspard et Lisa series and Plume. We have Petit Ours Brun, but frankly, it makes me lose the will to live. Babar is also acceptable, just. Trefusis Minor eschews all french books, but that’s another story.

    • papaetpiaf said

      Such is the folly that parenting can induce, apparently, that I spent a good half hour after writing that entry trying – trying, I say! – to purchase Charlie and Lola in French! It looks like it will have to be sent from Canada. Why am I doing this?

      Never heard of Gaspard et Lisa, will check them out, ditto Plume.

      Petit Ours Brun is one of life’s losers.

  3. Anna said

    I found some Charlie and Lola in French on Amazonfr. Many are out or print but a few were still available from private sellers on the Amazon site a few months ago. FWIW it also had the desired effect on my bi-lingual toddler and I was encouraged to find out that it was Charlie and Lola that mattered – not the language. I also have a long list of core texts used in pre-schools and nurseries that are available in French if you’re interested. I decided that as my little girl was going to encounter these in English anyway, it made sense to have them in French too.

    • papaetpiaf said

      I would certainly be interested in seeing the list, yes, thanks.

      I found a C&L book on amazon.fr too but the seller was not prepared to send it to the UK so it was back to the drawing board.

      Thanks for help.

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