Thursday, August 16, 2007

You know your father is a linguist when...(paca)

A lot of dads get excited when their children, I don't know, hit their first baseball or something. Apparently, I'm an unabashed linguist weirdo, however, because of how happy I was tonight. B and I were cooking together as we usually do for a few weeks now, and I pulled down the sesame oil to add to some vegies. We discussed that it was sesame oil and then when I was putting it back up, B said, "That oil's Japanese." (Remember B is 4 and a half.)

I looked at the tin with oil and it's covered in kanji. I immediately gave him a big kiss on the top of his head.

I had never discussed Japanese writing with him, but he had picked it up enough that he could recognize the characters, almost certainly at school.

Now truth be told, he wasn't exactly right. The sesame oil was from Taiwan, so it was Chinese characters. Of course, they are the same things, basically, (because both Taiwan and Japan use traditional characters, as opposed to PRC which has 'simplified' ones), and the main way to tell Japanese writing from Taiwanese writing (without being able to read either) would be noticing some hiragana or katakana scattered throughout the characters for Japanese. (The giveaway is often the grammatical particle 'no' in Japanese, which is very simple and almost always there around a noun. You don't need to be able to read a single word and can identify the writing's language just by looking for 'no'. By the way 'no' is the pronunciation; it doesn't mean no. It's a bit of grammar used to connect other words to nouns and doesn't mean much of anything. Confused, yet?) Still, he's four, so I give him a pass on only being able to identify characters on sight and not yet knowing his hiragana.

"How'd you know that?" I asked.

Of course, he rarely answers a direct question, and so he just told me another fact about Japanese that came up in his mind. "Lion dancing is Japanese."**

Alright, that's actually Chinese, too, at least the way he's learned it, but that's not bad.

I am still amused at how excited I was when he was able to recognize a different writing system and name it (almost). I think we'll start drilling IPA next week. Right after he masters hangul for Korean, anyway.

**Most of my readers might be a bit surprised that a four year old is talking about lion dancing at all. They made a pretty big deal of the Chinese New Year at school this year, and they had a book about a boy going to lion dancing school. We've also watched them in parades a few times. B likes lion dancing only at a distance, however. It's still a bit scary, even though he and I repeat over and over. "It's not a real lion. It's just people inside." Last night, we actually had a sheet on our heads and were doing our own lion dancing around the apartment, as we went "boing boing boing" in imitation of Chinese gongs. It just kinda happened. He likes to put himself and a parent under a sheet, and we had to do something. Why not lion dance?

Here's some Chinese lion dancing if you've never seen it.

1 comment:

Sammy Jankis said...

I think my proud moment will be someday when Ander first beats me at a video game. I'm sure it will be short lived because I know I'll get angry when he starts smack talking.