On tough love.

A couple of weeks after the Comet was born you packed the Star and his Papa off to Moscow for a month.

Being the mother of a newborn baby is, in some ways, a lot easier when no one else is around. It’s not like you can go out much anyway and the freedom to sleep whenever she does is important.

The main reason why you did it, though, was so that the Star could get his Russian fix, as well as have one last fling as the centre of the universe with unadulterated Papa and Babushka time.

Now, you missed the Star when he was away (oh, and his Papa. Of course). But in almost all respects this turned out to be the right decision and it has certainly done wonders for the Star’s Russian.

When he left he understood Russian just fine. He had quite a few words and you noticed that when he was with people from the all-Russian environment of his playgroup he was starting to use Russian more and more exclusively, even in the odd sentence or two. But he was an English speaker first and a Russian speaker quite a distant second, especially at home. Much to his Papa’s consternation.

Since he has spent a month undistracted by his Mama’s habit of breaking into English a crucial moments he has developed into a much more balanced bilingual. In particular, he speaks Russian to his Papa now. Much to his Papa’s relief.

And he has acquired sentences, and largely grammatical sentences at that, which you are most impressed by as you have never really got to grips with the Russian case system. Of course, he still gets his genders confused, but since he is still slightly puzzled by the fact that Mama doesn’t have a pipiska, you feel this is entirely understandable.

He also knows words you don’t. It’s terrible to be outstripped in vocabulary by a three year old, but as he is kind enough to translate a lot of the time, you figure you might catch up eventually.

He has also discovered the word ‘Mamuchka’

Which is Russian for ‘Mummy’.

Of course, he uses it to wheedle.

‘Mama, I need watch television,’ he will say. Inaccurately. ‘Mama? Mama! Mama? Mamamamamamamama? MAMA!’

But after a few minutes of you pretending to be deaf he will become caressing. ‘Mamuchka. I neeeeeeeeed watch TV. Please! Maaaamuchka.’

Accompany this with big eyes and a gentle hug and he is almost irresistible.


This post is now part of the August Blogging Carnival of Bilingualism, hosted by tonguetales.


5 thoughts on “On tough love.

  1. Methinks it’s so cool that you prioritise the bi-lingualness (and the cultural stuff that goes with it)! Some years ago we visited friends in norway (Norwegian mother, British father) and marvelled at the kids’ effortless and transparent switching of language when the first one employed did not have the desired outcome – just as you describe.

    Makes the rest of us envious of having to work the hard way to language proficiency, though 😉

    • I find that achieving bilingualism in the Star (and, presumably, the Comet) is quite a struggle, to be honest. But then we ae doing it the ‘wrong’ way, with Russian not my (the primary caregiver) language, not the language outside the house and not the default language of the house unless the MiL is with us, although B is keeping his end up at the moment.

      Of course, if I put the same effort into my Russian as I put into his, then I might be rather better at it.

      And it’s not an effort from the Star’s POV, which is the main thing, I suppose.

  2. Awww! Mamuchka is adorable!

    I know that in-country immersion is the best thing for kids’ language development. When they’re a little older (and annoying enough that I don’t mind packing them off!) I want to send mine to Canada for the summer.

    • There is a lot to be said for getting rid of your children in the name of doing them good 😉

      Actually, I was surprised by how effective it was to be honest. He was there last year, but with me for half the time, and overall it didn’t do much then. I wondered if it was my presence. But he’s had a lot more input from Russian since then and a lot more contact with other Russian speakers too so although it helped that I wasn’t there I’m sure, I’m also sure that all that effort getting him the exposure over here wasn’t a waste of time.

      It’s great when you can start to see real progress.

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