Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Prince Charming

Something strange is happening to the little one here. Surrounded by English speakers with nary a Hebrew speaker in sight (his father speaks to him in English, so I don't know if that counts), he is speaking more Hebrew than he ever did while we were in Israel. His English is also improving, as he is stringing more and more words together to make sentences, but we it's the Hebrew that we're noticing. When I mentioned it to my friend who's visiting from Norway with her children (we managed to coordinate our visits home for the first time ever - very, very cool!), she told me that she sees the same with her older child, a completely bilingual six year-old. Her daughter is speaking to her in Norwegian far more than she does when they are in Norway, which I find very interesting. With everyone else though, she speaks in English (though at one point she was trying to teach my son the Norwegian version of "The Wheels on the Bus", a current favorite).

The Hebrew speaking isn't too problematic. My parents are learning a few words here and there out of necessity, and whatever they don't understand, we translate. I'm doing my best to impart the "best" of American culture, and as I write this, my parents, my husband and my son are all sitting on the sofa, engrossed in a "Bob the Builder" video. He's also been getting healthy doses of Thomas the Tank Engine (the perennial favorite amongst all two year-olds), and has recently discovered the magic that is Elmo, currently known in our household as Melmo. He's gotten his first baseball glove, and knows that Friendly's has very good ice cream.
Of course, there have also been a number of moments when I've been grateful that there are certain words that he only knows in Hebrew. Earlier today, he was out on a walking trail with my husband, who is trying to get in shape for an upcoming hike out West with friends. Apparently, as they reached the end of the trail, they crossed paths with a rather attractive young woman. What does my charming, flirtatious two year-old say, with complete spontaneity (meaning no prompting from his father)? "Hi, cusit!" Of course, she had no idea what he was saying, and responded with a cheerful "Hi!". Husband was concerned that she would ask what the little one had said, but fortunately for him, that didn't happen. We've definitely got to break that habit before we get back to Israel though, or we're going to be in serious trouble.

I must say though, it's pretty fascinating to watch my son's language skills develop right before my eyes, and each day he surprises us with more and more. He sometimes mixes his languages, but I'm not terribly concerned, given the fact that he's only two. It's actually rather endearing, if not confusing to those in the vicinity. He's also a lot more chatty here, speaking with anyone and everyone, flirting his way about town and charming the pants off of anyone who crosses his path (even me!).

Tomorrow, we're going to turn things up a notch, as we get in the car and head for NYC for a few fun-filled days with friends. It should be interesting to see how our boy holds his own in the Big Apple. Hopefully, the weather will hold out for us, but so far, it's not looking too promising. Keep your eyes peeled for a full report sometime next week...


lisoosh said...

OK, two things:

Bob and Thomas are British.

My friends son used to call out "Atta Tembel" to everyone.

Lisa said...

He really said, "Hi, cusit," to a woman? That is hysterical!

Where in the world did he hear that word, BTW? Huh? u

RR said...

"Hi, cusit!"


Have fun in NYC!

bizofknowledge said...

Sounds like you have one smart child on your hands! You'll definitely have to remind him of these little adventures in vocabulary when he is old enough to understand the humour!

miki said...

Fascinating. Even though he's so young, he realises that something very important is missing (hearing Hebrew all around him) and he is trying to compensate for this by suddenly speaking as much Hebrew as he knows. Reassure him that you will be going home to Israel. Speak Hebrew to him as much as possible.

Liza said...

lisoosh: I know, but it's all dubbed into American English, so that's what he hears (and it's very strange here in the US to hear the much-hated Teletubbies speaking with American accents).

"Atta tembel", eh? That's great!

lisa: It's hysterical as long as they can't understand. :-) We're definitely going to have to break this habit of saying "cusit", though.

And, no, he didn't learn it from me - he learned it from his father!

rr: Thanks! Had one day of fun in NYC before my knee started giving be trouble, and I had to bag our second day in the city, staying in NJ with my friend while the husband took our son to Central Park in beautiful weather. Got a knee brace, and it's feeling much better now. Had a wonderful time with my friend, but missed going to the park.

bizofknowledge: Don't worry - we'll definitely remind him! It's our duty as parents to embarrass our children later in life with stories from their childhoods, isn't it? ;-) He is absolutely astounding us with the way his English is improving here. We can even see the changes on a day-to-day basis, and it's incredible.

miki: He's only two, so that would make him fairly incapable of understanding the concept of us going back to Israel in a few weeks. We actually don't speak to him in Hebrew at all, because it's so important to us that he also be fluent in English as well as Hebrew. Now that I look back on the way his language has developed during this trip, I think it's just a matter of overall language development, and not necessarily feelings that the Hebrew is suddenly missing (he hears his father and me speaking to each other in Hebrew periodically). I think he's just using both of his languages more.

Anonymous said...

Happy Belated Birthday!

Anonymous said...

Had to look up "cusit," but now that I understand it that's a great story!

Yael K said...

Alright so you are doing kewl things with a brilliant child all over the continental U.S. But ...Come back already! (And bring said brilliant child with ya :) Miss you!

nrg said...

ahh, the little viking is now spewing english like never before after almost two weeks of silence in the states... now that he is back in norway... go figure. Delayed reaction?
Note to self... teach son to say "Hi, cusit!"... no one here will know! :-D

Liza said...

Beth: Thanks! It was an amazing birthday, spent with dear friends who I don't get to see nearly enough. It was definitely one of the highlights of my trip!

Yael: Not all over the continental US, just the Northeast! We'll be back in the middle of next week (and hopefully the "brilliant" child will sleep as well on the return flights as he did on the outgoing flights). When do I get to see you?

NRG: Hey, at least you know his English got better! I'm amazed at the different I've seen in the viking's little buddy. We're speaking in sentences now! I wonder what his Hebrew will be like when we return, if his language development carried over into his other mother tongue as well.

Mia said...

Reading your post I had to smile. Thats exactly how me and my siblings were when we visited Israel as children. I remember talking to my parents in Swiss German all the time, kind of our secret language when we were away. At home, in Switzerland, we only spoke Hebrew, that was the secret language for us there. I figure it has something to do with having a secret language that only your family (parents & siblings) can understand? It is weird and funny that your son is doing kind of a similar thing. Maybe he feels closer that way as nobody else can understand him?