Monday, 9 July 2007

Bilingual animal babble

Until I moved to France and discovered the clothing store Naf Naf, I was convinced a French pig said "g-noof" all because of my first French book back in kindergarten. I've since learned the g is silent and that even animal speak French.

Suzanne is also learning that animals are bilingual. For her birthday she got a wonderful book called Le Livre des Bruits (book of noises) with about 50 different noises of all sorts. When Papa reads to her, it's in French. But when it's Mommy, it calls for simultaneous translation into English.

Suzanne has already mastered certain sounds like woof which she says every time she sees a dog or ee-yah which we finally understood to mean meow (miaou in French) or Leon (the name of one of our cats) since she has taken to chasing the cats around saying ee-yah ee-yah.

After reading the book a couple of times, I've realized that onomotapia (don't you love that word?!) translation is not so easy and it's got to be totally confusing for a bilingual baby. Here are some examples of sounds she's mastered and others she probably won't master until she gets an advanced degree in phonetics:

Same but different:
meuh=moo (cow)
bêêêê=ba (sheep)
miaou=meow (cat)
kissy sound
kisssy sound adapted for fish
ssss (snake)

Different but understandable:
glou=gulp (drinking)
pan=bang (gun)
ouah=woof (dog)
tap=clap (hands)
aie=ouch (pain)

Needless to say, Suzanne hasn't mastered any of the below in either language.

Sounds created by someone who never saw a live animal :
cocorico=cocodoodledoo (rooster)
groin=oink (pig)
crôa=ribbit (frog)
hiiiii=neigh (horse)

I'd never admit this to Jérôme but, it's usually the English sound that is total nonsense

The untranslatable:
A French fire truck goes pin pon. Isn't it just a really loud annoying wail in the US?
A French police car goes pin pon pin. see above
A French drum goes ratata plan plan. Don't you bang a drum and the drum goes bang bang?

This should make for some really embarrassing and cute stories when Suzanne goes off to school. I figure she'll be so confused by the time she's two that she'll be running through the house screaming pinponratataooooococodoodlewoof.


The Late Bloomer said...

I loved this post and your observations! I've thought about this a lot in the past too, after having worked a bit with children in a bookshop a few years ago, and I think it must be quite the challenge with bilingual children.

What am I talking about? It's hard enough for us expat adults to figure out the French sounds! I can't even imagine for the poor kids. Ha ha...

Sarah said...

Thanks for visiting my blog! I'd love to do a profile of how you're raising Suzanne bilingually. Let me know if you're interested! (babybilingual at gmail dot com)

Riana said...

LOL, my husband and I go back and forth about what sounds the train makes, clack clack or chou chou. Its so funny the differences

Deb said...

Those are good to know. To me, the English noises always sound better. ;o)

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