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22 February 2015


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I've followed your blog for a loooong time, but never commented until now. My family.... Same thing. We are American but my husband is from Galicia, so I'm very used to hearing their Portuguese-like dialect. My children of course grew up here and I worked so hard to make sure my son grew up bilingual. Sometimes when I read that all you need is for one parent to speak the second language, well, I secretly laugh. Once they go to school and they see all their friends speak X language, that's it, that's where your work starts. Over the years I did so many things to keep my son bilingual, summers in Spain, volunteering in Mexico, Saturday classes, tutors, AP Spanish, etc etc. and today at 19 he is very thankful. My daughter is another story, she was adopted from China and had trouble picking up English, so we had to focus on that for years, but now that she is in HS, she is taking Spanish and thankfully, she understands everything

Oh Corey, I know what it is like to live in another country and have a horrible accent. We were missionaries in Brazil, working with street kids. My husband, also an American, was raised there so spoke perfect Portuguese with no accent. Me? Well my Portuguese was usually grammatically correct but the accent? Street kids who had no sense of geography (some thought we went home to the U.S. every night), would ask me if I was Japanese (if you saw me, that would be the last nationality you would think of) since the only other foreigners that they were used to were from Japan.

Our daughter born while we lived there, is now tri-lingual and is hoping to become an official translator. Impressionante.

Oops. Got cut off, my mistake. Anyway, kudos to you for having taught your children the English language!!! Another mom out here in the internet universe understands what hard work that was haha.
Hugs from Washington DC,

Oy. I grew up in a home where Yiddish words and sayings were tossed about, but not a constant. Also in SoCal, so lots of 'Spanglish'. I grew up to be an "ok" interpreter for the Deaf. I learned most of my sign language from the Deaf instead of formally going to school (I took 1 semester of ASL at the local college and learned only one new sign -'vegetable', guess my friends were more carnivores?) Anywho, I picked up signing rather quickly, however I still have difficulty with the "French word order" and my sentence structure evidently stinks! (ASL was developed by Gallaudet, who learned then brought over French SL...) I worked mostly with k-12 students who were very oral, and wanting to learn "English word order with ASL signs" so I interpreted "pigeon" signs, the ASL signs, classifiers, and facial cues/expressions-- but in typical American order. yikes

The Deaf that I know and associate with use this form more than strict ASL, and I can still communicate with those who are ASL only, but I come off like a dork. Luckily most Deaf I have met or conversed with are kind and help me when I goof up!

Re "you do not have the lips for it": a professor I know, who was born/raised in Azores but has lived in the U.S. since coming here for grad school, has had a similar experience. Although he's highly articulate and fluent in English, he still has a Portuguese accent. I translated the following anecdote from a book of his essays (to be published sometime in the next year or so, with any luck).

One time a student who spoke with great difficulty introduced himself to me from his seat at the beginning of a course’s first class meeting. He told me he was totally deaf, but could make himself understood because of training he had received at specialized schools. He heard absolutely nothing but could read lips, so asked me if I would authorize him to sit in that seat and make an effort to speak always facing the class so he could watch my mouth. I agreed, of course. At the end of the class, I was greatly curious to know how much [he] had managed to understand. “Almost everything,” he replied. “I had to pay close attention because I had some trouble with your accent” (referring to my English pronunciation). This was no joke; he was being totally serious. [He] was unable to hear a thing (not even a telephone ringing right next to him), yet he had “heard” my accent, or perhaps “seen” it on my lips. At that moment, I realized something completely new that I had never heard anywhere before: the differences in pronunciation and accents result, at least in large part, from different placements of mouth muscles. So accents have deeper implications, since mouth movements are not disconnected from those of the rest of the body.

As to my own command of Portuguese, the courses available to me were only in the Brazilian "sotaque" (accent), so I took what I could get. What a huge shock I experienced, however, on my first trip to the Azores, since European Portuguese is more difficult for a Brazilian-speaker to understand than vice versa. Thus the Azorean natives and tourists from the mainland had little difficulty understanding me (besides, most Portuguese watch Brazilian "novelas" [soap operas] on TV). Over the years I've mostly gotten the hang of the European "sotaque," but traces of both American-English and Brazilian still seep through. Then again, my American accent is perfect, and most of my friends there want to practice their English with me :-)

I speak Spanish, but I'm losing my facility with the language since I so no longer have a friend or acquaintance with whom to speak and am no longer studying the language. I completely lost my smattering of German for the same reason. I have a deaf granddaughter, but she went through an oral-based program after her cochlear implants. Although sign language was her first language, it's no longer her primary language. We all know a smattering of sign language since the processors must come off when she's bathing, swimming, involved in water play, skiing, etc., and she can't hear anything. Sign language is a difficult language to pick up in older years, especially if you have rheumatoid arthritis that impacts the hands (me) or have had to have hand surgery (my husband), but we take lessons again every few years. We felt that when she became a teen, she might again identify as deaf, and, sure enough, at twelve, she's suddenly interested in beefing up her sign language skills.

Hi Corey, it has been simply too long since my last visit, I was sick a month, packed and unpacked another month, what a job. As I unpacked, I thought often of you, all my little things, but really, I want to sell everything, I mean it, I am so tired for stuff, I want to come and live in France. My dream, I speak no French, can you imagine a solid southern girl for the USA and the sounds I would utter speaking French! Oh My.....but I really do wish to come there. I would be happy with a small place, simple, and a little job. I want to LIVE....I dream to surround myself with like minds that love and will accept mine!

I is FABULOUS your children have this life you both built there, 2 languages, and more....blessed indeedy! XO

@Kathie - great story.

Ok , I speak french , english and Spanish quiet fluently, now I try to speak thai ...and That is very hard .
I try to make Philippe understand that a lot of english words have french/ latin origins so he can guess them ...but THAT is not easy

We lived in France for over 10 years and I speak reasonable French. My daughter moved to France with her small children
the eldest was 5 and the youngest 9 months. All four of them consider France their homeland and French their Mothertongue.
They are in Canada now and have continued their schooling at a French school. It is so good that they have the two languages

ours is an equally mixed family. Although everyone's mother tongue is English, the children are fluent in French as they go to French speaking schools so there are always two languages constantly being spoken, a conversation will flit between the two. My husband and I speak Portuguese to one another when we don't want the children to understand! We learnt Portuguese from living in Portugal in our pre-children years. Two eldest daughters now also speak Spanish, so they understand a little bit and then throw in some Spanish just to confuse the issue! Number 2 daughter has just put down Italian as her third language choice at school next year - our conversations around the table are never dull!

We each have specific languages between us within our trilingual household. As the only member to have had a monolingual childhood, they've developed low tolerance for me, their "New World mama" with both French and Swedish. Beware the socalled secret languages as I have often overhear Scandivavain languages here in France.

Kathie, that is fascinating.

I'll tell you a funny story...I was visiting Alès with my friend Corrine, we were shopping and she was showing me around her hometown. We went into her cousin's shop and Corrine introduced me. Of course we were speaking French. A short way into the conversation, Corrine told her cousin that I was visiting from NYC. Her cousin turned to me with the most shocked look on her face.."BUT I THOUGHT YOU WERE FRENCH!" I thought my heart would burst with pride. After studying French since the 6th Grade, and studying French pronunciation extensively (and daily) in my job as an opera singer, I had FINALLY learned how to say "hello" and "pleased to meet you" properly.

Nikki, you and your husband and family might be interested in Galician texts and images at this website (I've participated in some of the organization's conferences the past several years). Hope you find a few things that interest you all:

Rebecca, I can't recall where I heard this, but apparently singing in a second language has been observed as a way of improving diction in that language (it has to do with forging connections in the brain). Learning to sing along with some of my favorite bossa nova recordings certainly helped me with Brazilian Portuguese pronunciation my first couple years of classes!

Thanks, Natalie. The professor is a really interesting (and observant) person. I've enjoyed translating his book of essays.

Thank you, freefalling! The story appears in an endnote to one of the essays in the book, so just sort of "snuck up" on me as I was translating it, to my delight :-)

Here's some more documents re Galician from the same group:

There is absolutely no doubt about it!! Keep singing along with that bossa nova! (the only language I just cannot pronounce speaking vs singing is Russian. I can sing in it, but I just cannot speak it. )

I love this thread! I think you must have a very good ear, as a singer it makes sense that the sounds are important and you are aware of that. Speaking another language must come easier?

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