Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Coin this

Bilingual kids say funny stuff sometimes. They try to import /export expressions or vocabulary or even syntax from one language to the other. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. And sometimes they come up with some really great words.

When Husband came home yesterday evening, Boy1 greeted him at the door with a hug and, "Papa, j'ai déjà fait mes devoirs. Je n'ai pas procrastiné ce soir." Papa, I've already done my homework. I didn't procrastinate tonight.

Great, except that procrastinate doesn't exist in French. You have to say something like put something off until later. There's no one word solution for it and I understand Boy1's frustration, I've often wanted to coin the verb in French myself. But I have never dared. Call me a linguistic chicken if you like.

The following is an excerpt from this afternoon's homework session.

Boy1, who is learning to read, was stuck on a syllable. I offered what I thought was subtle and unintrusive help. Boy1 didn't see things that way and he said, "Hush Mama, you're deconcentrating me."

Don't you hate it when people deconcentrate you?


charlie said...

Cluck cluck!

Nicole said...

CBW - Oh that's rich coming from a chimp.

beth said...

I agree - deconcentration is horrible! I have a hard enough time trying to concentrate on my own with out people deconcentrating me!

christi said...

deconcentrate...i like that.

charlie said...

Le chimp est pauvre ce matin.

Lorraine said...

I am frequently deconcentrated.

Nicole said...

Beth - Me too.

Christi - I dare you to use it regularly.

Chimp - Pauvre en bananes? C'est surement a cause du boycott.

Lorraine - I think my whole life is deconcentrated this week.

Sarah said...

Moi aussi, je procrastine beaucoup.

As a French teacher, I sometimes get miffed when my students make up words and stick a French article in front of them and try to pronounce them with a French accent rather than consult a dictionary: "J'adore les pumpkins." But when they go a step further and start fiddling with the morphological endings to verbs, as your son did, then I'm impressed that they've internalized how the language works!

Using "procrastiner" (in the passe compose, no less!) seems like a very logical move on your son's part. Did he know that "procrastinate" doesn't exist in French and he was deliberately code-switching, or did it just feel natural for him?

Nicole said...

Hey Sarah - I don't think he even paused to consider if it existed in French. Same with deconcentrate. He said it like it was perfectly logical.

christi said...

i will then.

Sarah said...

In that case, it probably wouldn't be considered "code-switching," which is typically done consciously. Rather, he's using a word based on logical rules (word roots, morphology, other similar cognates), a word which turns out not to exist. Fascinating!