Sunday, February 19, 2006

Je Suis Wicked Stepmother

She was just here, Angie, my stepdaughter, child of the world, a passport holder at 45 days old. One and a half months after being born in France, she visited Japan, lived eight months in Mexico, and, to recover, stopped a few years in the Philippines. Long enough that, when I met her, aside from English she was speaking Filipino and two Visayan dialects.

At the ripe old age of six years and eight months, she has settled down. Home is Essex, with her Japanese mom and English stepdad. School breaks she goes back to where she saw her first summer, vacationing with her French father and Filipina stepmother. She speaks the Queen's English, and of Filipino remembers only "manang" and "patay." ("Old woman" and "dead"--don't ask me why.) We're proud of how her French is coming along. This past week it was amazing to hear her forming complete sentences all on her own. (Of a lost stuff toy: "Mon chat, il est parti.")

This petite peripatetic taught me an important survival skill last summer when I heard her in conversation with our neighbor. Cesar was saying goodbye, telling Angie that maybe he'll see her again during Christmas, when she could meet his sons. The little one was looking him straight in the eye, nodding her head, enthusing every now and then "Oui! Oui!" She did this all throughout Cesar's enumeration of potential winter activities.

After he had left, I asked if she had really comprehended. Angie answered, "Oh, not really. I say Oui to everyone talking to me in French so they'll think I understand and then they'll go away." I tried the trick a few times when I just didn't have the energy to get my brain's language center working, or when the speaker's southern accent was too thick. It worked!


tommpouce said...

I won't ever trust a filipino who replies oui more twice in a row or more from today onwards!!!! Kids have that ability to learn languages at an blinding pace... and forget it half as fast.
She looks really adorable, you'd look (that's you, right?) well, wicked :p
Your posts are always a pleasure to read!

ANALYSE said...

first time here. you're stepdaughter is adorable..i didnt know that trick...i should have used it, it's a smart way to cut unwanted conversations hehe..

apol said...

hi, ANA! glad you could visit. another very effective trick is a blank stare :) TOMMP, shame that you've never seen a flat filipino nose up close! it's one of the world's great wonders.