Monday, January 22, 2007

Humble pie thankfully, a language study, and the laundry experiment is postponed.

I am eating humble pie over here. Gnawing on my hat. Rubbing dirt in my hair. Had the meeting with the younger child's teacher. And the English teacher. And the special help teacher. All three, lined up to help work out what is best to do. And yes, I was very nice. Very very nice. Since the scene between the little one and her teacher and her subsequent tears last week, and then my bid for a meeting, the teacher's there have made some changes without my interference. The little one is now getting a great deal more help from the special help lady, Mercedes (a very common name here, and the car was named after the woman) who is simply a DREAM. She is very soft spoken and kind and thoughtful, and even speaks some English which is a boon. She seems to LIKE the girls.

The little one's teacher was eager to explain to me about what material they are covering in class, and we got some important information across in both directions. We also hammered out a more effective communication system, and we worked out what our expectations of the little one are and of each other. She is going to try and work with my younger daughter for half an hour every day, one on one. As she doesn't speak any English, it should be quite the intensive language lesson.

She is not a cosy person, or huggy cuddly like in kindergarten, but she seems dedicated, and willing, which goes a long way. She doesn't smile a lot, which probably intimidates the little one a bit, but from what I understand of her phrasing in Catalan, she has a nice way with the kids. She says that all the other children like my daughter, and they all play happily together. She says that the little one is well behaved in class, and that her drawings are amazing...which -she says smugly- I already believed. Anyway, it went well, and we all seem to be on the same side. I thanked her a great deal, and acknowledged how much extra work this is for her, which it is...especially if she is going to do the extra work we have designed until the little one gets a better grasp of the language. She will be sending home work for us to look over with the kidlet in advance, so she has some idea what to do in school. The work load is heavy right now, as they also have to keep up with all their English language work, which in reality encompassed a good portion of their school even before this.

The added difficulty is that the husband and I are taking language lessons four nights a week between the two of us, and we have to evolve a better communication system about the homework expectations in the evenings. The girls also have to do more work at lunch, which is leeeiiiiiissssssssssssssssuuuuuurly as only Spanish lunch hours can be.

Anyway, it went well, and I thought my brain was going to start sliding out my ears like long grey viscous streamers from the effort of speaking and understanding the Catalan. Even with the English teacher there, I was trying to speak both, in part to show them that we are dedicated to the school and the process. The teacher asked how long we are going to stay. Certainly partially out of curiosity, but I am certain also to see if all her work was worth the effort. Can't blame her.

I don't know if the day that she made the girl cry instigated the need to communicate and problem solve...I suspect it did. She was probably growing gradually frustrated, and it blew, and that was the heads up that we needed to work things out. She has been very laid back with the little one in the intervening week. So it is all looking very good. THANK GOD.

I am also deeply glad that the kidlet is having fun with the other kids, and that they are keen on her and want to help her. We also devised some strategies for things that she could do to learn language that would engage her, as I suspect she is clicked out and thinking her own thoughts a lot of the time, while the super-motivated elder child is focusing her considerable mental abilities on learning the language as fast as possible.

Oh, and we also worked out the protocol around the upcoming birthday party in class for the little one. I may even have understood it!

Just don't make my kid cry. Grrrrrrr.

Also today, in lovely moment of feeling like this is a nice place, I had a conversation at the garbage with a woman I had seen many times and not spoken too, and I understood every question, and appeared to have answered it properly. Then she did something that was so nice. I actually don't know many peoples names here, though I know a lot of people to say hello to. This woman, Carmen, stopped just as we were parting, asked my name, and shook my hand. Sounds small, but it was a lovely thing. Welling up over here in that pathetic? I don't think so.

I have been doing a little language research. I have been amazed at the brevity of Catalan. Many of the words are monosyllabic, and most of the longer ones are imports, or at least very similar to words I know from other languages, such as poligon...can you figure that one out? There are also many words which have, as I posted before, two meanings depending on if they are feminine or masculine as well as their various connotations, and extra meanings like we have, what are those? Synonyms? Homonyms? Anyway...the poetry in Catalan must be particularly dense as the texture and robustness of meaning for each word seems to be so intense. Some languages are so much WoRdiER. English is actually pretty brief, especially compared to languages like french, so I started asking around. Here was the phrase, picked entirely at random.

"What do you want to do?"

"Que vols fe?" in Catalan
"Co chceš dělat – in Czech
"Čo chceš robiť – in Slovack, Cz and Sl thanks to D at my sister's work.
"Šta ćeš da radiš?" (Serbian) Thanks SH at my sister's work
"Co chcesz zrobiæ?" (Polish) Thanks again sis
"Mit kersz csinalni?" (Hungarian, a language with it's own bush as it doesn't fit on those language trees) Thanks mom
"quis operor vos volo efficio?" (Latin) thanks dad -though he googled that, his prize for latin when he was twelve should be returned don't you think?
Qu'est ce tu veux faire? (Rusty me)
"was willst Du machen?"(German)Thanks C F-H
"Wat willt Je doen?" (dutch maybe)and again C F-H
"Was möchtest Du machen" - when it's a one friend you are asking
"Was möchtet Ihr machen" - when it's a group of friends you are asking
"Was möchten Sie machen" - when it is more formal, asking somebody more senior
"Was möchten Sie machen" - when it is formal and you are asking a group of senior people (in this case, plural is the same as singular) The last four a very detailed listing of German. Thanks Andi at my sister's work. My sister did a ton of work for this...
"what do you want to do" = "ç'do të bësh" is the short version,
"çfarë dëshiron të bësh" is the long one in Albanian (these are the singular and also the familiar ways of addressing someone, not the plural or the formal/respectful ones).
Thanks Llukan, who posted in the comments at stepping stones.

I also have a request out for Wolof (sp?) from Senegal...which I will add if it comes in. (The spell checker is funny) If you have any more languages out there, oh readers, feel free to post them in the comment, any script would be lovely as I can just cut and paste it. If I have made any mistakes - insert the usual disclaimer that it is all my fault - which it is and I will correct anything I am sent. I meant to get Castillian, but I was 50 minutes late for a 60 minute Catalan lesson after my marathon session with the teachers. Yes, all three of them spent nearly two hours with me after a full day of teaching. Chewing on the humble pie over here. Glad to do it in fact, far better than worrying still.

"What do you want to do?"
"Que vols fe?"
"Co chceš dělat –
"Čo chceš robiť –
"Šta ćeš da radiš?"
"Co chcesz zrobiæ?"
"Mit kersz csinalni?"
"quis operor vos volo efficio?"
Qu'est ce tu veux faire?
"was willst Du machen?"
"Wat willt Je doen?"
"Was möchtest Du machen"
"Was möchtet Ihr machen"
"Was möchten Sie machen"
"ç'do të bësh"
"çfarë dëshiron të besh"

The short familiar singular form of Albanian is as short as the Catalan but neither by as much as I had anticipated. They are so efficient with this language. I am not sure I will ever read Albanian poetry in the original, but this makes me wish I could. Then again, I'd like to read the Catalan too. This brevity and density kind of scares me. It is like when a toddler says "cup" and what they really mean is: I want you to give me my green cup with the dog, and the yellow lid, fill it half way with warmed milk, and put it down exactly here, and if you don't do it EXACTLY like that I will throw myself on the floor and scream myself senseless for an hour and a half and there will be NOTHING on this earth you can do to stop me. The only one who can understand this is someone who has 'grown up' with the child, or language, or studied it intensely for ages. The pitfalls seem myriad.

At least people smile rather than tear their hair when I run over their language like a horde of mongols in my attempts to speak and write it.

The great laundry wringing experiment has been deferred due to rain. I had it all planned, but the rain would mess it up too badly. I'll have to post when I know more.

Slept poorly last night. A nap might be in order tomorrow.

Night folks, bonna vespre.


Beth said...

Wonderful news about the school meeting - for your sake and for the little one's sake.
And your ambition re: the various languages is incredible.
The woman who shook your hand? That would have made me teary, too.
Here's to friends and to making new ones!

Dorky Dad said...

I LOVE humble pie. I particularly like it with a nice glass of purple Kool-Aid.

No. I don't understand the Kool-Aid reference, either. Suffice it to say that I eat more than my share of humble pie.

oreneta said...

Beth: Yes, it is a big releif...and I am going to go out and get the names of some of the people here, don't know why I haven't yet.

DD: I think kool-aid would go well, especially with a little soda in a fancy glass....

Beth said...

good going on the school meeting....I thought we might see a little blood shed or something good like that. That teacher doesn't know how lucky she is!

And I love the language lesson! We'll all learn right with you.

Expat Traveler said...

Yeah talk about learning a lot in one post! Came via kim's site... I'll have to check out more of oyur links..

Envious for your travels.

oreneta said...

Beth: I was really glad that it went so well at the school. Never hadto do anything, they were totally onside. Absolutely wonderful.

Expat traveler: thanks for coming by, Kim's site is great isn't it.