I have many times pointed out that Scarlett’s language skills in English are remarkable. Her passive understanding has always been impressive, her active speaking has improved continuously. Compared to the other two languages, however, English has always been far behind.

While German and Italian took their first wobbly steps more or less at the same time and then toddled shoulder to shoulder into the more difficult and complex areas of language, English has always been the laggard. It took its first steps later, its walking speed was slower, it often paused and sometimes it even went into hiding.

In the past three month this has changed. English has put in a burst of speed. Scarlett is now able to express original ideas in English in great detail. One day she was for example building a lighthouse out of building blocks and put a little figure on top of it. She then said to her grandma: “I throw the man in the sea and let him die. He sinks down.”

The key to this was contact time. In September Scarlett stayed at home, as kindergarten started only in October. While Penny and I were working, Scarlett was at home either with the English speaking grandma or with Teresa, the English speaking house-keeper. Full immersion. Also in October and November Scarlett spent many hours with grandma and Teresa.

In these past months German has slowed down a bit. It has become slightly less fluent what concerns speed and choosing the accurate word. On a grammatical level Scarlett is however using more complex structures and new elements like the future-form: “Ich werde nicht einschlafen” (German for: “I won’t fall asleep”) or conditional sentences: “Warum, wenn die Sonne nicht scheint, es gibt keine Blumen? (German for: “Why, if the sun doesn’t shine”, there are no flowers?”). Sometimes the other languages interfere. Scarly once said ‘horsechen’ (which is the English ‘horse’ combined with the German diminutive form ‘chen’). Or she said: “Was machen die Carabinieri at Nachttime” (German for: “What do police men do at nighttime”; she combined German ‘Nacht’ with English ‘nighttime’).

But this is nothing to worry about. Several times before Italian quickened its pace and left German behind, but German always regained its strength and closed the gap with great strides. German has always been a bit behind but definitely in sight of Italian.

Scarlett’s Italian keeps flourishing. She has been using the future form already for some time:”Andremo al parco?” (Italian for: “Are we going to the park”). She is now using the conjunctive quite often, a feature of the Italian language that many foreign learners and even native speakers struggle with: “Non volevi che lo prendessi” (Italian for: you didn’t want me to take it; literally: you did not want that I would take it”.

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