Tag Archives: English

Theeey’re Heeere

If you entered our house right now, you’d wonder what country you were in.  There is a non-stop mix of Swedish, French, and English in the air (and the occasional, “Oops, that’s Spanish, not French!”).  Our (adult) Swedish friends speak English.  And their oldest daughter, who is 11, has been learning English so can carry on a conversation in elementary English fairly well.  All three of their children speak French (as well as Swedish, of course).  All but our youngest son can carry on a decent conversation in French, although he speaks as if he is fluent.  He likes to French-isize English words.  It’s quite funny!  And I keep bringing Spanish words into the French conversations.  So it will be interesting to see the interactions when we go down to the farm in Florida tomorrow where no one speaks anything but (southern) English.  After translating back and forth, my head should be spinning by the end of each day!

After they arrived yesterday, we did our best to keep them awake (their time zone is 6 hours ahead).  I took them to Wal-Mart after dinner.  The kids decided they wanted to see the costumes and each found one they liked.  And I wanted to get just a few grocery items to sustain us today and of course candy for tonight’s ghouls and goblins.  Our refrigerator looks so empty everytime I open it.  But we are leaving tomorrow for a week, and I don’t want to leave anything to go bad.  Not something I want to deal with when we get back. 

I’m off to finish a Red Riding Hood costume and make sure everyone else has all their parts and pieces for tonight. 

Happy Haunting!

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word (noun): a unit of language that functions as a principal carrier of meaning

It seems my kids are always asking what a word means.  If I say, “Go look it up in the dictionary” like parents are supposed to, they just say, “Nevermind” and would never find out what it means.  Sometimes I just tell them.  Other times (especially when I’m unsure on a meaning, but I don’t let them know that!), I get the dictionary out and look it up “with” them.  My daughter is working on her homework as I sit here typing, asking me what quixotic means.  Now there’s one that I’m gonna have to pull the dictionary out for.  A few minutes ago she asked me if chausette is feminine or masculine.  That one I can help her with, but I don’t and hand the French dictionary over to her instead.  She needs to start looking up things on her own.

Last night, the high school had an open house where parents can meet their children’s teachers.  When we met our daughter’s English teacher, he immediately told us what a good student she is (*proud parent moment*).  He said she is a very good writer.  As much as some children say they dislike writing, I think it is an important part of lives.  Our kids have travelled quite a bit, more than some adults.  When we have moved or gone on trips, we have encouraged them to write while we are on the road or in the air.  Sometimes, we pull out their old journals and laugh at some of the entries.  I think they will appreciate having these stories more and more as they get older.  My parents saved some of my school papers and projects.  Every so often I pull a different one out and show it to my kids.  We laugh at some of the funny misspellings or silly pictures.  With the introduction of the computer and internet in the immediate past, there may be more “writing” going on now than people think.  So people need to be careful with what and how they write.

Choice of words is very importabnt.  My daughter’s assignment is to use as many different words to describe one of Edgar Allen Poe’s works.  I don’t think quixotic is going to describe many of his writings.   When my children get mad at each other, there are some of the typical You’re stupid. or You’re a bonehead! that come out in the quarrels.  As they get older, they are hearing much stronger language at times, at school, in movies, in music, out in public even.  I tell them if they decide to use these words, it will make them look stupid. 

We all know there are times when we have unwisely chosen words.  They may not be curse words or even bad words at all but could just have been the wrong words at the wrong time.  We get tired, stressed, or distracted, and we react with the first words that come to our minds.  I know I am guilty of using these wrong words with my family quite a bit.  They are the ones that I interact with the most, and they usually get the brunt of my bad moods.  I am trying to stop, take a moment, and wait for better words to use in situations like these. 

One of my husband’s cousins lived with him during college.  He would often ask his cousin what he wanted to do.  His cousin would respond with, “It doesn’t matter” or ” I don’t care.”  My husband got tired of coming up with things to do, so he started saying, “Okay, let’s go wash my car” or “The yard needs mowing.”  I think his cousin eventually got the picture.

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History Lessons

I have always loved to hear family stories.  I remember as a little girl listening to my grandmother tell my sisters and me about growing up in South Carolina with 4 brothers and 3 sisters and then moving to Florida when she was 12.  I wanted to be where she spoke of.  It was then that I started asking about ancestors.  I wanted to know where our families had come from.  My mother’s side is mainly English with some Scottish.  My father’s fraternal grandparents were Czech and his maternal side was French.  My mother-in-law and her mother have found someone from one side of their family was on the Mayflower and another side back to Robert the Bruce in Scotland.  We have compared a few notes between my husband’s family and mine and see where some of their paths could have crossed in the past.  With all the resources on the internet now, I have learned new things my parents couldn’t pass on to me about their families and have met a lot of cousins. 

Before we moved to Paris a couple of years ago, I met a distant cousin through the internet who lives in France.  He didn’t speak any English, but I had just learned to speak French.  So when we moved there, my family and I were able to visit the quaint town of Muttersholtz, Alsace, France where my great-great grandparents lived before they immigrated to the US.  There, we were taken on a horse-drawn carriage tour of the city by some other distant cousins.  We kept meeting cousins along the ride, and it felt like a reunion.  A few months later we were invited back as special guests to the unveiling of a book that had been written about the town’s history.  They had put a picture of my children and me in the book under a 2-page write-up about how my great-great grandparents, a couple of uncles, and a few cousins had left France for the “New Frontier” of the United States.  They seemed so proud of their connection to the US and of having several of the off-spring of previous citizens of Muttersholtz in their midst that day.

I have fun reasearching my family’s genealogy, and maybe one day my children will enjoy reading the stories and interesting facts I have collected over the years.  I know they love history class at school, so maybe they will love their family history as well.  My youngest son’s 4th grade history class was based on the Greeks all year long.  I knew he was really into it when everytime we went to the bookstore or library, he came to me with an armload of books about the ancient Greeks or a Greek god or a Greek dictionary.  He couldn’t get enough of it.  He even did a special report, not assigned by the teacher, for the class.  My kids come home often with, “Did you know…?” and have a new interesting fact unknown to them before that day.  

History is important in many ways.  It tells the story of life.  It tells us where we came from and may give a glimpse to where we are going.  It tells what may have been done wrong in the past and gives us the opportunity to do it right or maybe just better the next time.

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Yo hablo. Sie sprechen. Nous parlons.

There are almost 7,000 languages in the world today.  Wow.  After Chinese, English is the most widely spoken language.  That makes it easy for us English-speakers; we think we really don’t need to learn another language.  We are required to take a language in high school.  I took Spanish, and I don’t think I could hold a conversation with anyone hispanic at all.  I could point and grunt one- to two-word sentences, I think.  Buenos días!  Cómo estás?  Gato.  Blanco.  Hasta la vista.

When it was time to attend war college a couple of years ago, my husband got to choose which one he preferred.  Most go to Rhode Island (Navy) or Alabama (Air Force)… He, however, is a big language nut.  He can say, “It’s a beautiful day!” in more than 20 languages.  He has been all over the world, thanks to the US Navy, and has always tried to converse with the locals.  So, he chose L’Ecole Militaire (the French War College) in Paris.  But before we went, we got sent to beautiful Monterey, CA for 6 months so that he could learn French first.  When we got there, his class consisted of only 5 military personnel, so they asked if any spouses would like to attend as well.  So I got to go to “work” with him from 8 – 4 every weekday and learn French too.  It was one of the most stressful 6 months of my life.  We have 3 school-aged children who are used to having a stay-at-home, volunteer-at-school, help-with-homework mom.  I was a I-have-to-study-too mom for those 6 months also.  When we arrived in France, however, I was a most thankful mom to have learned the language.  Granted when I spoke, they knew I wasn’t a local, but they understood me, and I could have a decent conversation.  And I think I still can.

We decided to put our children in a bilingual school in Paris, as opposed to the American or International schools that a lot of others did.  We wanted our children to learn the language as well.  Half of their courses were taught in English, the other half in French, so they learned French fairly quickly.  French K-12 schools are tougher than most American ones.  (When you get to university level, it’s the opposite.)  From what I can tell, most European children begin to learn a second language at the elementary level.  And it’s not half an hour a week.  It is a regular, everyday course. 

Right now, we are having a small tug-of-war with our kids’ high school.  We are trying to convince them to move our freshman daughter up to French IV from French II, as we didn’t know until her older brother took French II there last year after first arriving back to the States, that the level they took in France was much higher than we thought was parallel with US language class levels.  After he suffered (from boredom) the first semester, we asked his teacher to move him up to level IV for the second semester.  She wouldn’t budge, so he suffered (from boredom again) in French III.  Last year, they offered only French I year-round in the middle school, so we encouraged our daughter to take it just to keep her French alive.  She was bored beyond belief, but it was her easy A course, I kept trying to convince her.   This semester she has a different teacher than her brother did last year, and the teacher is noticing that our daughter’s ability is beyond the French II level.  So it may be a little more promising this time around.  On verra…

With the hispanic population increasing in the States, I am finding Spanish might become a little more helpful.  So I have decided to brush up on my “second” language and am taking a course at the local adult learning center.  I often find myself saying a French word instead of a Spanish one, but it’s not as hard for me as it is for some of the others as there are a lot of similarities between the two languages (and the back of my brain is gradually opening some locked filing cabinets from 20 years ago).  I may never use it, but I am having fun. 

Es un día bonito!

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