"Why did the banana go to the doctor?" my six-year-old daughter asked me one day. Startled, I replied, "Well, why don’t you tell me?"
Grinning from ear to ear, she excitedly said, "Because he was not peeling well!" This was followed by loud girly giggles. Wow, I thought to myself. Did she just tell me a joke in English? I mean, she actually understood what the joke was all about: a word play on "peeling" and "feeling." I was so amazed. Just months ago I couldn’t imagine her telling me a joke like that.
She had another joke for me: "Why is 6 afraid of 7?" The answer is: "Because 789." A word play on homonyms!
And here’s another: "Why is Cinderella so bad at football?" "Because her coach was a pumpkin!" Oh, I see! I thought it had something to do with the dainty glass slippers not being suitable for football, bwahahaha.
She picks these things up from school, friends, TV, and the internet. As any normal child at her age would, I guess. But I could also observe that she really likes English as a language – in fact, nowadays she never talks to me in Tagalog or Japanese anymore. Even when I speak to her in Tagalog, she responds in English. And she loves to use "big" words in her sentences, too. Words like "wonderful," "recognize," and "realize," among many more. Maybe it’s no big deal for children whose native tongue is English. But considering the fact that we never really used English at home prior to coming here, and that she practically grew up in a Japanese environment, her astounding progress in English is a real delight to me as a parent.
Her reading skill is also growing in leaps and bounds. I encourage her to read me stories every night. It’s a great way to learn new words and increase one’s vocabulary. I remember that as a child I didn’t just read books, I devoured them. I’m happy to see that my daughter is also developing this affection for books. One of her most favorite hangouts in Cambridge is Borders, believe it or not. 😉
There was also a time when she recited out to me:
I hear and I forget,
I see and I remember,
I do and I understand.
I did a double take and blurted, "What did you say?!!" Where did that come from? Well, I’m sure she learned it in school, but dear me, it sounded so profound, so Confucius-like. It reminded me of the times when I learned how to operate a machine for the first time. Understanding only comes when you do it yourself.
Same way with language, I suppose. Use it to learn it. Guess I’ll have to be put up with Ms. Ingglisera’s* jokey jokes for a while. 😛
*Ingglisera = refers to a person (female; Ingglisero is male) who likes to speak in English even if it’s not one’s own native language. Sometimes used in a derogatory manner (but I’m not really sure why!).