By Alice Lapuerta
Let me introduce: The Jabberlinguals.
Jabberlingual 1 – that is my 8 yr-old daughter Isabella, who is chattering away cheerfully in English, Spanish and German. Sometimes she produces interesting sentences in Germspanenglish, “I have pancito auf der Hose!” (I have some bread crumbs on my pants) – which is simply brilliant! Most of the time she keeps her languages apart, but for the longest time she didn’t.
I used to think she was confused. I also used to think that she was speech delayed, autistic, had an auditive processing disorder, was dyslexic, dyspraxic, dysgrammatic and every sort of ‘dys’ that one could think of. Life sure is funny sometimes because quite mysteriously, she turned out to be just fine. She now speaks a beautiful, clear Hochdeutsch, sprinkled with some rude Upper Austrian dialect, and is equally fluent in American English-interspersed with some British vocabulary- and to a lesser extent Ecuadorian Spanish, interspersed with Quechuan words. If this confuses you, it shouldn’t. Really!
Jabberlingual 2 – that’s my 5 yr old boy, Dominik, the Anglophone of the family who insists on speaking mainly English. He is already giving English lessons to his playmates on the playground. If he absolutely has to, he can speak some Austrian German: “Geh’ weita do!” (move on!), and some Spanish. If you ask him what his name his, he’ll probably answer “Me llamo Jim!” Even if you don’t ask what his name is, that’s just fine. He will pounce on you and ask: “Como te llamas?” and answer for you: “Me llamo Jim!” This one-man conversation will go on the whole day. Sometimes even at night.
This little Jabberlingual’s particular talent is memorization: he’s memorized tomes and tomes of books, videos and cds, songs and nursery rhymes, in all three languages and spits them out at the oddest moment. This “Como te llamas?” – “Me llamo Jim!” scenario he’s picked up from the Speekee DVDs. There must be something profoundly funny about those phrases. He’s getting over that phase now, and I am relieved. But woe is me! Now he’s memorizing Dr. Seuss! His favorite phrase is: “He likes to drink pink ink I think!” which he keeps repeating over and over again like a stuck record. I tell you. This requires the patience of a saint! He is also currently teaching himself how to write the colors in German, English AND Spanish!
Jabberlingual 3 – that’s my Ecuadorian husband, also known as The Hubby. After 6 years of living in Austria, he is now irreparably Austrianified. He complains that his friends have said that he speaks Spanish with a German accent. We met in the U.S. when neither of us could speak each other’s languages, so we started speaking English with each other. We still do. Probably also with a German accent.
Jabberlingual 4 – that’s me. I write. I also bake bread with bananas and Nutella in it. I worry. I worry about asbestos in plastic and the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and now and then about our trilingualism. I am still trying to figure out how to balance three languages. I was accidentally raised in three languages myself: German, English and Korean. And what would one know: I turned out quite fine! At least this is what I tell myself.
Two months ago our youngest little Jabberlingual joined our family: our Little Peeps. He is pretty good at shouting gustily: “neh, neh neh naaaah!” Which one can assume is probably a universal kind of language.
Jabberlingual. That’s the name of this blog.
Watch this space as it unfolds!