In her exploration of the vast country of language Scarlett has now discovered the verbs. We hear them in all shades and colours, in English, Italian and German, in combination with subjects, objects and both, sometimes grammatically correct and sometimes incorrect.  It seems as if in German she almost exclusively uses the infinitive, whereas in Italian she uses infinitive, first and second person singular. She says “Scarly essen” (German for “Scarly eat”), meaning “Scarlett wants to eat”,  “Petit setzen” (German for “Petit sit”), meaning “Could you please sit down my doll Petit”, “Zio gehen” (German for “Uncle go”), meaning “I want to go to my uncle”. In Italian she uses the infinitive “sedere” (“sit”), meaning “I want you to sit me at the table”, but often she uses the first person singular in the correct way “Scarly prendo” (“Scarlett I take”), “Giacca metto” (“I put on the jacket”). She gets it wrong however when she says things like “Papà bevo” (Daddy I drink”), but she means “daddy you drink”.

From my description it may seem as if Scarlett was permanently talking to us, but this is far from being true. Even though she is able to say many things, she won’t use her skills so often. She is a very lively and active little girl, but more in a non-verbal way. To people from outside she even seems shy, as she won’t talk at all if she is in unfamiliar surroundings.

Scarly sometimes  says longer sentences like “Joghi, miele vuoi Scarly” (Italian for “Joghurt, Honey (you) want Scarly”), but here for example she mistakes first and second person, but then she uses it correctly again when saying “mama, spingi treno” (“mum, you push the train”). In this occasion we were on a train and when it stopped Scarlett wanted her mum to make it move again.

Sometimes Scarlett comes up with grammatically more complex forms like in “Dimmi quella cosa” (Italian for “Give this thing to me”). Here she does not only use the demonstrative pronoun, but also inflects it so that it corresponds with the noun, as you have to do in Italian. But then I suppose she is not yet aware of the grammatical principle behind it, but just copies the whole phrase.

Scarlett also started using negative forms. She says “Scarly no more” when she has finished eating. Whenever we get near a hospital or into a doctor’s surgery she firmly says: “Scarly no doctor”. She is very reluctant to go to doctors after one day she had put a crayon up her nose and a little bit got stuck right up at the end. We had to go to three different hospitals to have it removed and it was quite painful. A month later her elbow got dislocated (admittedly through my fault) and the doctors had to put the joint in again. Another painful experience which did not boost her love for doctors.

In my last blog I mentioned that Scarlett is very good at not mixing languages. The times they are changing. At the moment she is happily mixing. She says “Dammi Handtuch” (“Give me the towel”, first word Italian second German), “Questo (s)poon” (“This spoon”, Italian – English) or “Parco Giochi gehen” (“go playground”, Italian – German) or “Cecilia Kuss Cheek” (“Cecilia kiss cheek”, English –German).

In May we went to Scarlett’s granddad in Rome. For three days I spoke almost exclusively in Italian. Somehow I had the idea that Scarlett suddenly realized that I also speak and understand Italian. When we came home she started talking a lot of Italian to me. She is however aware that there are different languages. One day she pointed at a big bus and said “big bus” to me. I answered “Wie bitte?” (German for “excuse me”) and she said “grande bus” (Italian for “big bus). Again I said “Wie bitte?” and she finally came up with “Gross Bus” (“big bus”).

We also notice that her vocabulary develops specific to areas. As her English grandma has taken responsibility for Scarlett’s artistic education, Scarly is mainly using English words for everything linked to drawing. She says “pen”, “colour”, “purple”, “brown” even when she speaks German to me.

Among the other new developments in her language there is her use of “Cosa c’è?” (Italian for “What is it?”). Before, she simply pointed at things and uttered a brusk “eh” when she wanted to know a new word. She also comes up with wonderful words like the German “Bimmelbahn” (A kind of chou-chou-train), which she got from one of her favourite picture books, called “Henriette Bimmelbahn”. Instead of saying “nein” (German for “no”), she often says “nee”, which is more colloquial. For a long time I wondered where she got this from, as I would never use such a colloquial expression. Then somebody pointed out that I indeed say “nee”, but I had never been aware of it.

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