Bilingual brother and sister: this is how they chat

In this post, my mother in law asked herself how her grandchildren would communicate with eachother. As they’re starting to have real conversations, time has come to give her a first answer…

A while ago, my son and daughter were playing in my son’s bed. They were so cute! I waited just a while to listen to them chatting.

Siamo svegli! Tu sei sveglio, e io sono sveglia! (we’re awake! You’re awake and I’m awake)”, my daughter said, and my son answered “svegli, svegli, svegli! (awake, awake, awake!)”. They were building a house and my daughter said: “zullen we dan hier het dakje maken?” (shall we make a roof here?) and started to sing: “let it go, let it go, let the storm rage on…”

I just love to see my children switch between Dutch and Italian (and occasionally even some English). In an earlier blog, I wrote something about ‘code-switching’ and why bilingual people do it. Now that my son is starting to build his first sentences, he’s also code-switching:

Sitting at the dinner table: “Acqua lekker!” (good water)
While getting dressed: “Hand dentro” (hand in)
Playing around: “Altro muts” (other cap)
And when he fell: “Bocca pijn” (mouth pain)

He’s clearly learning how to use his languages. Sometimes, he’s testing wether certain words go together or not. For example he goes: “acqua, water” (water in Italian and Dutch) or “kapot, stuk” (‘broken’ in Dutch in two ways). This seems to indicate that Dutch and Italian aren’t two seperate ‘systems’ in his head.

My daughter also switches effortlessly from one language to the other. At lunch today, my son gave her a piece of bread, so I told her (in Dutch) to say ‘thank you’.

She went: “Grazie!”

So even though I was speaking to her in Dutch, she found it more appropriate to thank her brother in Italian. Could this be a first example of secret rules between bilingual siblings?

2 gedachten over “Bilingual brother and sister: this is how they chat

  1. I love this, hearing about their interactions are just too cute! I’m a multilingual educator in Spain and one of my favorite parts of the job is listening to how my students mix and use all of their languages…Let It Go notwithstanding 😉

    Liked by 1 persoon

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