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Monday, 19 September 2011

Polite baby!

Sofia, as usual, is way ahead of her brother and sister. For example she eats way more than they do, both in quantity and in variety. We spend hours coming up with ways to persuade the older two to eat anything green, and Sofia even grabbed the lettuce out of my sandwich the other day. (Admittedly she didn't eat it in the end, but she gave it a good look and did put it in her mouth once or twice.) We've started making a list of the unlikely things she eats, which includes smoked salmon, beetroot salad, and garlic dip.

We also seem to have developed a rather irritating politeness routine with the other two. Every morning at breakfast Annabelle shouts "Apple juice!" or "Apfelsaft!", depending on who she thinks is going to react fastest (or alternatively "Apply juicy" or "Apfelsafty"* depending on how silly she is being - or let's be generous and see it as linguistic creativity). Then somebody says in a warning tone, "Annabelle, how do you say that nicely?" to which she promptly says, "Please", which in turn produces the question: "And in a whole sentence?" So she then comes out with, "Can I have some apple juice please?", usually with a cute look from under her eyelashes and some sort of playful accent or intonation. Then she gets her juice. What a palaver.

Sofia doesn't bother with any of that. Her very first word was "Thank you/Danke". Now that may seem like a funny first word (apart from it marking her out as the politest baby ever). It's her first creation of Denglish, a result of her not yet fully developed linguistic skills which don't allow her to reproduce the sounds of the words as we know them. But we know it was a word because it was always the same sounds in the same situation, in this case when somebody gave her something (she has experienced such success with this that she has started using the same sounds when she is giving rather than receiving, but we'll overlook that for the moment.) And the sounds have a "k" sound in the middle, a vowel sound before and after, and sometimes even a cross between a "d" and a "th" at the beginning, thus resembling both the English and German words (she's lucky that the two languages in question share some roots).

Now I was pretty tickled by this, but was even more amazed when at about the same time the staff at the creche proudly told me Sofia had started saying "Merci" (or at least "-erci", the "m" being quite difficult for babies to say) when they give her things! Not just polite, but trilingually polite, right from the start!

* The whole of the rest of this exchange can take place equally in English or in German by the way, but I'll only write out the English from here on. 
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