Friday, September 25, 2009

Ian's speaking Dutch!

While Tamara was away I discovered why we can't understand Ian. He's speaking Dutch. Which actually makes sense. Ian hears English at home, German all around him and has mixed the two into his own language, which just happens to be Dutch. I made this conclusion when Ian recently said the Awpplebaum. This is a half English (apple tree) and half German (apfelbaum) word, which sounds very similar to the Dutch word for apple tree: appel boom.

Actually Ian is putting more and more words together and the fact that he put these two words together in a sort of Dutch way sounds like a move in the right direction. It will be interesting to watch him grow through this stage.

Now the disclaimer since I don't want an entire country mad at me. Yes the Dutch language has many commonalities with English and German and if you know both English and German you can understand some very simple Dutch conversations and read some Dutch signs on the highway. But of course Ian couldn't make up a language as complex as Dutch on his own! :-)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Bill Cosby - Still Funny

The kids discovered two unused MP3 players yesterday and have now inherited them. We still need one more, but that should not be too problematic. This gave me the opportunity to introduce my two oldest (11 girl, and 10 boy) to Bill Cosby's sketch about Noah today. On my old MP3 player I had some of Cosby's sketches. The kids were laughing hysterically throughout the entire sketch and quoting it thereafter. I listened to it too and realized I still truly enjoy it.

Listening to the sketch today reminded me of something else. Hearing this sketch as a child was one of the earliest times someone brought the scriptures to life for me, or better stated, opened my eyes to the possibility of bringing the scriptures to life.

Bill Cosby paints beautifully a person's reaction to someone following the path of God - "Hey, your ark is blocking my drive way! I have to go to work!" He also eloquently captures the frustration one encounters when trying to fulfill God's commandments. When God tells Noah he has two male hippos (the last two animals to get on the ark), Noah responds: "I'm not bringing in a female! You change one of them!"

Speaking of Noah, and the Scriptures coming to life. For scripture study last week, we measured the length, width, and height of the Ark - if the ark were placed on our street. We realized that the Ark would have been quite a bit longer than our street. It would have been taller than the tallest house on our street (if you count the TV antenna on top of that house) and it would have been wider than the street (house door to house door roughly) - "what's a cubit?"

I found the following information about the ark online: The Ark's dimensions were at least 135 meters long (300 cubits), 22.5 meters wide (50 cubits), and 13.5 meters high (30 cubits). That's 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high!

Friday, September 11, 2009

An amazing discovery - Phrasal Verbs

On Monday Spencer received a D+ on an English quiz. He was heartbroken. I felt sorry for him and thought it's a good thing I don't have those problems. Little did I know.

On Wednesday I found I have some English problems of my own. I spoke to a colleague on the phone in English this week and asked him to do something. I asked: "Would you free up that document for me?" The colleague, a native German speaker basically said, what the heck are you talking about? I had to translate my shortened sentence into a full English sentence. Something like: "Would you close the document so I may open it for editing." As you probably know, even on a network only one person can edit a document at a time. He had the document open and I needed to open it and edit it.

I was a bit frustrated. Why can't the people here understand me? I thought.

I turned to the colleague sitting next to me and said, my English is often too complicated and people struggle to understand me. Why is that, I asked. He had overheard my phone conversation and said, matter of factly, "You're using phrasal verbs. That makes it difficult for a non-native speaker to understand the context of what you are saying."

I was astonished, partially because he knew instantly what the problem was, and partially because I had never even heard of phrasal verbs. I asked "what is a phrasal verb?" He explained it to me briefly and then I began scouring the internet for information about phrasal verbs. From English Page I found this definition: 1. A phrasal verb is a verb plus a preposition or adverb which creates a meaning different from the original verb.

That didn't help me to much because I couldn't remember what a preposition was. The examples I found helped considerably.

Phrasal Verb ==> actual meaning in real English
Fall behind ==> Make less progress than anticipated or planned

Discovering this has opened doors to better English and German. I found several websites which contain translations - phrasal verb into real English and then into German.

I realized that I was constantly using phrasal verbs and I was constantly thinking of them while trying to speak German. Whenever such a phrase comes to mind I would naturally try and translate my English sentences into German. But I would always struggle because "fall behind" is not truly what I want to say: make less progress than anticipated is what I want to say. I then realized it is much easier to translate the 2nd sentence.

It was truly quite a discovery for me.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Ian Misses Mom

Tamara was gone last night and so I put Ian to bed. He was not too happy about the whole affair and cried for a bit. I double checked on him and offered him some new books. He declined, and left again, thinking he would console himself.

After realizing that he would not console himself, I went back up. I recall our conversation going like this.
Me: Ian, would you like me to read you a book?
Ian: No.
Me: Ian, did you want me to leave you a book to read?
Ian: No.
Me (flabbergasted): Ian, what do you want bud?
Ian (still in tears): Mom!
Me: Mom will be back in a few days bud! Shall we go downstairs and read a book?
Ian: yea.

After a few books and playing with Hannah (his 8 year old sister) for a couple of minutes he was ready for bed.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Spencer's English Quiz

Poor Spencer took his first English quiz in his new secondary school on Monday and got 4 out of 10 wrong.

One word that he didn't know was Primary School (British English) = Grade School (in American English) = Grundschule (in German). Guessed Pre-School (in American English) and correctly translated that to Kindergarten (in German).

It can happen to the best of us. Hopefully he will take the lesson and use it to his advantage. He did say the other American (mother is American) also scored poorly on the quiz.