Scarlett’s active vocabulary keeps growing in all the three languages. She usually knows the right word for an object in more than one language. This makes her a little translator. Once I spoke of  “Windeln” (German for ‘nappies’). Scarlett said “Oma Daphne dice nappies” (German-Italian-mix for “Grandma Daphne says nappies”). Then I asked her what mama says and she answered “pannolini” (Italian for ‘nappies’). Even though she still mixes, Scarly well knows which language a person speaks. Once she said “Cosi” (Italian for “like that”) to me, but then corrected herself immediately: “So.” (German for “like that”). Another time she said “è pane” (Italian for “This is bread”) to me, but only a moment later she rectified her mistake and said “das ist Brot” (German for “This is bread”).

When Scarlett learns a new word in one language she tries using it  in the other languages. When Oma Helga once said “Da ist ein Fisch im dunklen Wasser (German for “There is a fish in the dark water”) Scarlett ran excited to her mother and said “pesce acqua dunkel” (Italian for “fish water” + new German word “dunkel”).  Penny asked “oh, c’era un pesce nell’acqua scura?” (Italian for “Oh, was there a fish in the dark water?”) and Scarlett repeated “pesce nell’acqua scura” (Italian for “fish in dark water”).

Scarlett has a good ear for sounds. She notices when people do not speak properly. In Italian there is a difference in the pronunciation of double consonants and single consonants. The word ‘capello’ (hair) sounds different from ‘cappello’ (hat). Many German speakers don’t hear the difference. So when I say “cappello”, I often  get it wrong.  Scarlett corrects me straight away. She looks at me all serious and says “no capello, papa, cappello” (And again I do not hear a difference). Thank God she does the same to my partner, who, being Italian mother tongue, sometimes speaks a slightly awkward ‘h’. When Penny talks about “Oma Helga” (Scarlett’s German grandmother”) Scarlett says “no Oma ‘elga, Oma Helga”.

Her pronunciation is very good in all the three languages. She speaks clearly and is easy to be understood. In Italian she is absolutely mother tongue. In German most of her sounds are mother tongue, she struggles however with certain sounds such as the ‘r’ and the umlaute “ü,ö,ä”, and to a somewhat lesser degree with the ‘h’ and the ‘s’.

On a grammatical level Scarlett has definitely moved on. Once she surprised me by spontaneously saying a full, correct, German sentence: “Ein Hund hat zwei Augen” (German for “a dog has two eyes”). This however was a big exception. Usually she sticks to two or three word utterances. Her German verbs are mostly in the infinitive and sometimes she mixes in the odd foreign word. This leads to sentences as “Anche ich wollen ein Brot” (German for “I also want a bread” with the first word in Italian” or “pocket fuer Schnuller” (“pocket for a soother”). For some time she used English words and conjugated them the German way: “Scarly walken” or “Papa, looken”.

She often uses articles, gets them often right: “ein Teller, ein Brot, die Tomate” German for “a plate, a bread, the tomato”), but sometimes uses a kind of general “dak” instead of using the proper “der, die, das” (articles in German are very difficult, as you do not only have three genders, but they also change with the grammatical cases). In Italian she can say sentences like “Andiamo a casa nostra a Milano” (“Let’s go to our house in Milan”) or “la farmacia è chiusa” (”The pharmacy is closed”). Scarlett has moved on from noun-verb-constructions to more complex sentences using prepositions and other functional words. In German however she gets them often wrong. She says “gehe zu Hause” (German for “I go home”) where it should be “nach Hause” or she says “zum Arm” (“in your arms”) when it should be “auf den Arm”. Scarlett has also learnt the correct use of possessive pronouns like “your” and “my”, “dein” and “mein” or “tuo” and “mio”.

In English Scarlett usually does not say things spontaneously but mainly repeats phrases. When our car navigator says “Turn left” Scarly laughs her head off and repeats “Turn left”.  When she heard my partner say “Darling” to me she laughed and repeated “darling”. When Scarlett is with her English grandma Daphne she always wants to hear “Rupert Bear” stories. When nonna reads a sentence Scarlett will often repeat it. Even though Scarlett usually speaks Italian to her English grandmother (and grandmother speaks in English), she sometimes comes up with English phrases spontaneously, like “up here, all gone or pussycat”. Her English understanding is however already very good.

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