Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Adjusting to life in the US . . .

I remember learning to read in English when I was in Grade 2. I could speak English by then, but, for some or other reason, I specifically remember having to get used to reading the th-sound.

Tonight, I was sitting on the couch reviewing multiplication tables with my 3rd-grade niece, Clara. She was saying her 7-time-table in Afrikaans, and it suddenly hit me that she should probably be saying it in English, since it would be better for her to be thinking in English when it comes to math and such. So I had her switch to her second language.

She's only been in the US for a little over a month, so it's been a huge adjustment to her, suddenly having to do everything in English. She's doing great, though. At times, however, you could tell how confused the poor child is getting with her numbers.

In Afrikaans, for example, forty two is "two and forty." Which could get terribly confusing when you're switching to times tables in another language. Poor kid! But at the same time, you can hear how her English is starting to affect her Afrikaans. In English, you say, "more than..." while in Afrikaans, than is translated as as (sort-of rhyming with us.) So she's starting to say things like "meer dan..." rather than "meer as..." It's got to be tough!

Three-year-old Anja, on the other hand, seems to be very quietly acquiring her second language. She's not speaking much in class, but this afternoon, I asked her a question in English, which led to an entire conversation in English. A month ago, she understood English, but hardly ever spoke it! I guess she's realized that people around her simply no longer understand when she tries to express herself in Afrikaans, so for survival, she's picking up English.

What's funny to me, though, is that whenever she doesn't know how to respond to a question, her standard answer is "nothing."

She'll catch on really quickly. No doubt. And she'll probably have the most American accent of all four people in their house.

Speaking of which: You know your accent is somehow different when no automated phone system understands what you're saying. For the most part, I'm able to adjust my accent enough that such systems understand me. My sister, on the other hand, has declared that she despises automated phone systems, since they simply don't understand her.

And we've been speaking English for much of our lives...

There are so many other things for them to get used to in the USA. They tried flavored coffee creamer tonight. Found it "very rich," while I, on the other hand, love the stuff in my coffee. French Vanilla's my favorite. I don't care for the fancy-flavored ones.

Plus I got them some cream cheese for their bagels, and my sister spread it thin like butter, asking first if you're supposed to put butter on first, or not. I guess if you're going to spread it so thin, you might as well put butter on first! But fear not, she didn't. And it's much better for your waist in any case not to put a quarter inch or more cream cheese on stuff...

Clara and I baked chocolate chunk cookies from scratch today and she declared that it's much nicer than the ready-in-the-tube kind. They tried those just for fun the other day. Since it's such a novelty. They really bake EVERYTHING from scratch in this house. Believe me. My brother-in-law is an incredible cook, as is my sister. But Stefan does stuff like bake bread (from scratch, yes, even making his own yeast from potatoes.) What really amazes me is that they're currently still mixing everything by hand since when you have to put up a house from scratch in another country, KitchenAids and hand mixers aren't on the top of the list...

Needless to say, while I was creaming the butter and sugar for the choc-chunk cookies today, I appreciated the fact that I don't usually have to do things like this by hand.

And later in the evening, I appreciated the fact that I never had to learn my times tables in more than one language...


  1. Aww, this was really fun to read. :) Thanks for this glimpse into your life and theirs. :)