We do not speak English in our house. Or Swedish. No, we live in an everchanging blend, mixed in with toddler speak, baby sounds (bwa ba ba bwa) and some really funny (to me and the toddler) nonsense word games.
There are rules and patterns. I speak in English all the time. E speaks in Swedish to the kids all the time and in English to me, almost all the time. And NK’s language moves back and forth, more English when I was on parental leave, more Swedish now that she is in daycare. Now she seems to use a lot of English nouns, fit in a Swedish frame. When NK does speak to me in Swedish, I usually repeat what she said back to her in English, and she nods, like, right, that is exactly what I just said.
I did not even notice any of this, really, until grandma and grandpa came for a visit from America. And it became clear that NK could not switch into English like she could when she was little and knew only words and a few verbs. Of course, by the end of the visit, she spoke much much more English, well, because she is fluent in English.
But it broke me out of my comfort zone, at least for now. I know that she is three. I know that she will speak English. I know that English is the dominant language in the world. I know that someday we will live in the US again. I know that this is all about me, probably some long-delayed culture shock. I know. I know.
But I want English. Now. Suddenly I really don’t like it when she says, “Mamma says X. Daddy says Y. NK says X.” I am trying to be nice about it, trying real hard not to punish her for speaking Swedish to me. And that is a fine line. How do you be firm, encouraging but still guide her? I have no idea.
The good thing is that she humors me. She nods earnestly when I explain that she knows two words for everything, that she speaks just like Mommy and Daddy (I am even saying Mommy now, suddenly, not Mamma).
And it is working. This morning, a dove cooed in a bush. NK stopped and looked around and said, “I hear something.”