We're Jason, Beth, Lee Anna, Sawyer, and Sarah Claire, a family of five living, learning, and laughing lots in Northern Africa.
We hope you can learn a little (and maybe laugh a little too) as you read about our latest adventures.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Objection: Leading the Witness!

When you learn a new language, it's not enough to simply take your new vocabulary and plug it into English-style sentences. People might understand you, but you will sound weird to them. Have you ever heard a non-native English speaker say something like, "I've lived here from 5 years" instead of "5 years ago?" You might have understood it, but you knew it was wrong. That's why we also have to learn something called "expression," which means learning to say it like the locals say it. This is much harder than just memorizing the vocabulary.

One place where it's easy for us to mess up is in connecting prepositions with other words. For example, in English we say that we got angry with someone. In Arabic, you would say you got angry from someone. If you said with, they would think that you and the other person both got angry together at a third party. Also, in Arabic, you don't sit in a chair, you sit on a chair, or couch, or bench, or whatever. Why is it in English that you sit in a chair but on a couch?

So our 3-year-old is in the process of learning these kinds of connections between words in both English and Arabic. Here are some questions Lee Anna has asked us this week that show that she's really picking up on some of our English expressions:
  • as I walk out of the bathroom wearing a robe, with a towel on my head: "What did you take, Mama?" (answer: a shower)

  • when she notices that I'm no longer wearing a robe but now wearing clothes: "What did you get?" (answer: dressed)

  • as I sit on the floor with sawyer lying down in front of me, with wipes and a new diaper in my hand: "What are you changing?" (answer: his diaper)

  • as I sit in the rocking chair with a sleepy Sawyer in my arms: "Where is he going?" (answer: to sleep)

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