Thursday, February 7, 2013

Kids Learning the Local Language -- E.

Before we moved to Malaysia, our American friends often told us that our children would pick up the language quickly, naturally, and much more successfully than we their parents would.

That has turned out to be partly true.

Dorie and James actually know very little Malay.  Almost zero.  Queena and I have been diligently learning Malay for six months and, however else you may measure our progress, it's only accurate to say we're far ahead of our children.

However . . . James and Dorie have been learning something altogether different.  It's called Malaysian English, and while not a completely different language from our American English, it's distinct enough that I can't speak it well.  I can mimic a bit.  But my children are -- quickly, naturally, and successfully -- internalizing this speech variety.

I'm very proud of my children.  Unfortunately for them, though, Malaysian English has certain characteristics that by coincidence resemble what in America would be called 'whining baby-talk'.  (The grammar and the sound system work together to . . . well, I can't explain it well here, but if you want to hear a bit for yourself, check out this explanation by a Toastmaster in Malaysia.)  Poor Dorie!  We had been getting rather angry with her 'baby-talk' way of saying things.  It took a few months before we realized her English wasn't degenerating, and she wasn't regressing to some infantile self; she was simply adapting to a legitimate and quite expressive speech variety. 

Still, my blood pressure continues to spike whenever I hear Dorie say something like "I wan driiiink! This one!"  Old habits die hard.


  1. Love it! The YouTube is priceless.

  2. Your post and videos provided some interesting breakfast discussion. :)