"Someday's gonna be a busy day..."

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

A little Russkie never hurt anyone...


My recalcitrant, almost-two-year-old daughter was in "tune out Mummy" mode a few weeks ago when I was trying to get ready to go somewhere. After asking her to please come here three times, I suddenly blurted it out in Russian. My daughter stopped what she was doing. Her eyes got wide. I finally had her full attention, even though she had absolutely no clue what the heck I'd just said.

One thing about speaking Russian to a non-Russian speaker is that the words have a certain commanding tone to them. It doesn't really matter what you say; I could have told my daughter that kitties and dollies were pretty and it still would have sounded like I was saying something important. At any rate, I found a magical new way to get her attention.

So now I find myself dropping the odd Russian phrase or word out of the blue into my conversations with my daughter, endearments like "detka maya" (my child), whimsical stuff like "sheek pat petch" (said after you sneeze; literally it means 'fly under the stove!')and exclamations like "astarozha!" (BE CAREFUL!!). We count in Russian going up the stairs; we play with my old Matroshka (nesting) dolls often.

I feel fortunate to be able to teach Jade bits and pieces of another language. My mother was born in Belarus and spoke Russian to my sister and I at home; we lived next door to my Babushka for 20 years, and she never learned much English beyond "Medy Chreestmas!" and "vatermelon," so my sister and I grew up speaking Russian as a second language of sorts. I didn't realize until I started taking Russian courses in university that the Russian I spoke was badly stilted, outdated and comprised mostly of diminutives and baby talk. Apparently my Baba spoke to us using childlike terms our whole lives; I think I must have sounded like a Muscovite four year old with a speech impediment every time I opened my mouth to speak the language of my ancestors.

But who cares? The little bits and pieces I can impart to Jade and Dylan will be for fun, not for educational purposes. My sister and I have always enjoyed having a secret language to employ at opportune moments (e.g. clandestine exchanges about hot guys at the grocery check-out; exclamations of disgust over rude people in public places) so perhaps my kids can enjoy something similar. At the very least, I've found a way to make Miss Jade understand I mean business when I throw a little taste of the ol' Russkie yzik (language) her way.

4 comments:

Biddie said...

I can still say, thank you, in Russian. Proudly, thanks to your Baba.

Susan said...

I love this creative technique, Kimber. Not only does it get Jady's attention, it passes down an important part of your heritage and tradition!

Jade Oolong said...

Love it! We do the same with our son, only in Spanish. However, we have the opposite problem...Spanish is not commanding like Russian. In fact, it is rather fluid and melodic! LOL...teaching a child a second language is a precious gift.

tanzi said...

And now she has the Russian DVD to teach her even more. So cute how she reacted. My students do the same. Works like a charm...Thanks, Mom and Baba!