Saturday, September 09, 2006

Cutting out the middle man

Tess and Constance








Constance lives across the street. Since she goes to a different school we don't see her much except on weekends or maybe Wednesdays.

Today however, Tess, Colm and Constance spent the entire afternoon together. For awhile Beth and I served as interpreters, each kid in turn would come to one of us.
"How do you say, "Come in the house and look at the fish."
or
"What does 'a toi' mean?" (It means "your turn")
or
"C'est qui, Kevin?" (Who is Kevin?) The big tall bald guy, I told her.

Interestingly enough the requests dried up pretty quickly as they eliminated the middle man and began working it out between themselves. I think we'll look back on today as perhaps the day a switched flipped for Tess and for Colm...but it's not really about speaking French; it's about connecting with Constance.

Then at dinner this evening, a first for Colm. He asked me, "How do you say, "Can I get down from the table?" The table etiquette alone would have been enough to make me do a double-take but the abiding desire to sort out things in French was a sweet surprise indeed. I offered him something I thought he might recognize..."Puis-je descendre?" He gave it back to me as clear as a bell.

He climbed down from the table. There was a beat and then Tess said, "Dad?"
"Oui."
She had that expression that signals us that something is coming from way back in the furthest reaches of her brain. She made some false starts, the suspense at the table was palpable. She was intent but not at all frustrated...finally, it came all in one breath. "C''est a moi, descendre?"

I said, "Oui mon coeur." But what I really wanted to do was shout, "That's what I'm taking about!" and jump up and exchange high fives with Beth. I know I'm bragging here but I don't care...what she did was to coin a novel utterance fashioned from elements she had acquired separately and in different contexts...for all you language teachers out there, you know what I'm talking about...for the rest of you, know this...it's golden.
K

5 Comments:

Anonymous Krista said...

Yay, Tess! And yay to the two of you for providing her with the environment to succeed. Language acquisition fascinates me (especially in kids). Keep the updates coming...the linguist in me loves it. Glad to hear you are all well, too. Shall we visit? ;) Hugs from Pardee street - Krista

12:05 PM  
Blogger kc said...

come on over! we'd love to see you.
k

1:09 PM  
Anonymous Jer said...

Kevin, these frequent updates are awesome. Please keep them coming. Not only are they appreciated over here, you are going to have a great document of your time in France if you keep this up all year.

Give our love to everybody,
Jer

8:48 PM  
Blogger kc said...

thanks jer... i really am enjoying doing this. it feels like something i can and want to maintain. i consider you to be the uber-documentalist of things familial so i'm very pleased to get encouragement from you.
k

11:34 PM  
Anonymous Missy said...

Ahh, this is an awesome entry. I got a little teary reading about Tess' accomplishment. And your pride and joy. So sweet. I love your description of the look on your face, the feeling you all had, waiting.

12:43 AM  

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