Here’s an intriguing problem.
My daughter, courtesy of my wife, is bi-lingual. She speaks French and English fluently. Being bi-lingual is not uncommon in Hong Kong, where a large percentage of children speak 2, or even 3 languages. But this is not about that, I just like to throw that in to simply boast about my little girl and my amazing wife, this is about Missy in tears on the way to school recently.
I was walking along with her, and we were chatting away. Important things occupied us that day, such as – how come ice melts in the sun? And why aren’t buses painted pink? In short, the big issues.
Suddenly, Missy gets a little teary, so I picked her up as we walked along. “What’s the matter, my princess?” I enquired, giving her a reassuring cuddle.
“I don’t want to go to a French school.”
“Really?” I was a bit perplexed, as she adores her teacher and usually loves going.
“I want to speak Japanese”.
OK… so… where did that come from??
We don’t have any Japanese friends. Sure, we’ve been to Japan, but Missy was a one-year-old and could barely speak any language then. So what prompted her suddenly wanting to ‘speak’ Japanese?
Who knows how little minds work? She was convinced a while ago that apples might kill her, or so it seamed. Then one day, she calmly picked up a slice, and away she went. We had a tantrum last week – because her dress didn’t “twirl” sufficiently when she spun around. “I’m not like a princess”, she wailed. You got that right, girl.
Later, my wife and I had a chat about her sudden yearning to embrace all that is Nippon, you know the conversations you have: realizing this is a serious concern for a 3.5 year-old, but unable to discuss it without hysterical laughter. Japanese?!? We think it might stem from her favourite boy at school; a pleasant little chap whose mother is Korean. Possibly, Missy had just confused the language when this lady talks to her son before class.
But be that as it may, that morning, poor old single-lingual dad (despite the best efforts of my French teacher) had to reach deep down to find a Japanese word to placate Missy.
“Kon-ichi-wa” I pronounced poorly, but proudly. “I think it means hello”.
The crisis was averted. We got to school.
“Bonjour Missy”, her teacher said as we walked in.
“Konichiwa”, came the solemn reply. Missy’s teacher looked at me; I shrugged.
“C’est la vie”.