Scarlett is now three years old and Italian has clearly become her strongest language. She uses present and past tense, speaks fluently and has a good vocabulary. The prevalence of Italian is no surprise. We live in Italy, she goes to an Italian kindergarten (from 9 to 16) and mama, who has been on maternity leave for half a year now is at home all day and speaks Italian. Scarly is interacting more and more with other children and picks up a lot from them. When she is with her friend Carlotta, who is three and a half, she does not speak much, but back home she sometime imitates her friend and speaks exactly like her. She also speaks Italian to her little brother Quentin: “Quentin,  non piangere, siamo tutti qui.” (Italian for: “Don’t cry Quentin, we are all here”)

Her German has been pushed aside by Italian. About a month after our summer holidays I noticed that Scarly found it more difficult to talk in German. She tried hard but was often pausing to search for the right word. Eventually she then said it in Italian. She used mixtures like “voglio Geschichte” (Italian,German for: “I want a story”) or “ho getrunken” (Italian, German for: “I have drunk”). Scarlett struggled to speak German but she always made an effort. Once I was close to her bedroom and heard her say: “Ein Chinese ist ein Chinese. Ein Quentin ist ein Quentin…” (German for: A Chinese is a Chinese. A Quentin is a Quentin …” It seemed as if she was doing grammatical exercises in order to improve her German. She then sang one of her favourite German songs “Drei Chinesen mit dem Kontrabass”.

We eventually reached a point when she hardly spoke German to me any more but only Italian. Admittedly I was feeling slightly disappointed, but I never really worried. Scarly was exposed to Italian all day long and now that little Quentin absorbed a lot of my attention and energy, our German quality time had been reduced a lot. And even though Scarlett spoke less German her understanding kept improving.

And then there were our  bedtime stories. When I took her to bed she always wanted to hear the story of Snow White. Every night. I told her the original Grimm version, whereas my wife told her the Disney version. After some time Scarlett knew long parts by heart and would say them happily: “Spieglein, Spieglein an der Wand, wer ist die Schoenste im ganzen Land” (German for : “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all.) or “Lippen rot wie Blut, Haut weiss wie Schnee und Haare schwarz wie Ebenholz” (German for: “Lips red as blood, skin white as snow and hair black as ebony”). German became stronger again when we spent a few days at the German grandparents after Christmas. Also to the German grandparents she spoke mainly Italian, but more and more often she would come up with German two-word or three-word-sentences.

Scarlett’s English is still language number three but I have the feeling it is getting stronger. She has spent more time with the English nonna, as Daphne helped us a lot with me being in school and little Quentin being around. Before Christmas Scarlett spent a whole week with nonna in Umbria. Afterwards she came to me one day and said “Rupert wake up in the morning” (inspired by her beloved Rupert books). Then she was singing Christmas songs like ”Jingle bells” or “Away in the manger”. Interestingly she also spoke more German to me after she had been more immersed into English.

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