Monday, September 29, 2008

My bilingual niece

When Maansi talks to me on phone I'm constantly reminded of my reading in the field of language acquistion, especially child language acquisition during my M.Litt course at CIEFL. Maansi is soon-to-be-three year old. She is equally fluent in Kannada (mothertongue) and Hindi (fathertongue). At home she spends most of her time with her Ajji and ocassionally Muthajji - both speak to her in Kannada. Her mother uses Kannada, Hindi and English. At school it's English and ocassionally Kannada. Her friends speak Kannada, so is the neighbourhood. Some interesting observations about Maansi:

1. When I talk to her it's always Hindi, even if I ask her in Kannada (I can manage short sentences) she replies in Hindi. She is very clear that with me and my mother it has to be Hindi.

2. She can parallelly talk in both languages - the other day I heard her giving instructions to her Ajji in Kannada while she was talking to me in Hindi.

3. Sometimes she indulges in code-mixing and code-switching like 'Kal raja hai na' (tomorrow is a holiday). Since her Kannada vocabulary seems to be richer than Hindi, I sometimes heard her using kannada words when she could not find the Hindi evquivalent like 'gombe' for gudiya or a doll.

Another interesting fact about her is her ability to carry on long conversations on phone when she's in a mood for it. She monopolizes the phone, engaging me with her rhymes, songs, gossip about her friends and other general stuff. The other day I tried speaking to her in English, since it was a Sunday I asked her ' Maansi, are you going out somewhere?' Prompt came the reply ' no out going:)' Signs of becoming an omniglot kid like many others! Another kid, my friend's son, converses with ease in at least four languages. I haven't had the chance to interact with him much. His name is Aarav, about five years old - fluent in Malayalam, Tamil, Kannada and English, I'm not sure how much he's exposed to Hindi. My other niece Shreya mostly speaks Hindi but is quite fluent at English. She's on her way to pick up Oriya. Though she does not speak in Telugu I guess she understands it.

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