It's That Time Again! 新年快乐 (Xin Nian Kuai Le!)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

It's still Sunday evening in California, but it's just past noon on New Years (Monday) in China, so this goes out with warm wishes for a healthful and prosperous Year of the Ox. In looking back at the Year of the Rat just finishing, one surprise here at Capers was that the page that most often captured visiters coming over from a Google search was . . . (the envelope, please) . . . 新年快乐 (Xin Nian Kuai Le!) from a year ago. We've had a steady stream throughout the year, often from Europe. This week, 新年快乐 got ten hits from the United Arab Emirates alone. So while I'm wishing all my Chinese friends a wonderful new year, I'm also scratching my head and wondering to what I owe this popularity. So a request: If you arrived at this blog after a Google search for "新年快乐", please leave a comment and explain what you hoped to find here. And then, may you enjoy health, peace, prosperity, and joy in this Year of the Ox.

My Hat, It Has Three Cognates

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Natu found me eating breakfast in my stockinged feet and brought one of my big shoes, lifted my foot to maneuver it into place, and then ran off to get the matching partner. Pretty ambitious for a 28-month-old. Once my shoes were on, he went to the front door and stood beckoning. We located his shoes and a sweatshirt, and I put on my hat. Natu raced off to find his chapéu. His Portuguese-challenged grandfather defaulted to the chapeau of other-wise forgotten high-school French, which his grandmother corrected and sent us on our way. With chapéu, there is no conflict between Natu's Portuguese and the sombrero of my wife’s Spanish, and only a rough resemblance to her Italian cappello. As we race to keep up with our bilingual grandson’s Portuguese, it intrigues me that when the Portuguese varies from the Spanish, its cognates sometimes run after the French, and other times bow to the Italian.

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Photo by Natu's Grandma

On our walk, Natu and I saw an “avião up in the sky!” (Which I heard as the Spanish avión, and no doubt confused him as I repeated it.)

He gets excited by the Christmas lights that are still up and is working hard on his colors. He nails yellow pretty consistently, but confuses blue, red, and green. Of course, with his mother they are azul, vermelho, e verde.

Over our heads, it was “Squirrels dançando!” while at our feet it was “Pinecones swimming!”

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We stooped and I introduced him to water-logged acorns. He took one in each hand, “One acorn! Two acorn!” The numbers are also coming in both languages. I showed him how acorns have chapéu. He met that with the glee that only a two-year-old can muster.

“Acorn, chapéu!” we volleyed back and forth.

Natu and Papa both understand the first rule of language learning: ‘Put every new word to immediate use.’