Friday, December 02, 2005

About Trixie

I live in a bi-lingual house. My wife is Lao, and we have a two year old daughter, Trixie. It's an interesting challenge raising a bi-lingual child, especially since I cannot speak Lao very well. The problem is that Lao is a tonal language, which means the tone of your voice can change the meaning of the word.

I might think I say "you have a beautiful shirt", but what comes out might very well be "you have a beautiful tiger", or "you noodle believe beautiful".

My understanding of spoken Lao is fair, good enough to get the gist of things anyway. So often my daughter and I have mixed conversations, with her half mostly in Lao--with the odd English word thrown in--and my half mostly, if not entirely, in English.

"Tric-CY bpai hong hein nam!" she might squeal when she sees me put my jacket on.

"No dear, I'm not going to school, I'm just going to the store to buy some bread."

"Seu kowgee boh? Tric-CY bpai shopping nam boh?"

"Trixie boh bpai, it's raining."

Trixie speaks mostly in Lao because until we moved back to America a month ago, she had lived all her life in Laos. Lao was all she heard every day, with the exception of her father--that is to say, me. She understands English just fine, but so far here in America she still speaks habitually in Lao.

She's taken to be quite a little mimic, saying whatever she hears other people saying. It's quite like having an odd little echo. Sometimes when my wife speaks to me in Lao, Trixie will translate it to me in English, assuming that I don't understand.

Although it makes it more challenging for me as her father, I hope that as she gets old she will hold on to her Lao fluency. I believe that her exposure to two languages is making her more fluent in both, for she already has amazing ability to communicate for her age.

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