End of  August, our long summer holidays are coming to an end. As every year Scarlett got her booster dose of English and German. One month in Germany with the German grandparents, ten days in Umbria with the English grandma. We also spent a week in Cornwall, but there we paradoxically spoke mainly Italian, as we went with the Italian cousins.

Once more we realised how important full immersion is. Scarlett’s German was already very good before the summer, but she would sometimes use Italian words, which she had heard again and again throughout her day. Coming home from school she said: “Wir mussten zu zweit nebeneinander stehen, dann hat ein Kind eine benda angezogen. (German-Italian for: We had to pair up with another kid and then one child got blindfolded). Scarlett knows the term ‘Augenbinde’ (German for: blindfold), but as it is a term that doesn’t come up too often in our everyday conversation, she used the Italian ‘benda’ which was very present in her mind.

I usually react by repeating the word in German, trying not to interrupt the conversation: “Ein Kind hat eine Augenbinde angezogen? Und was ist dann passiert? (German for: Oh, one child was blindfolded? And then?) Sometimes Scarlett repeats the word: “Ja, Augenbinde” (German for: Yes, blindfold) and usually she uses it correctly from then on. After the month of full immersion this wouldn’t happen any more, there was no Italian creeping in any more.

The second striking improvement after our German holiday was word fluency. When we arrived Scarlett was sometimes struggling for words, at the end she was fluent. Apparently a lot of dormant vocabulary had been reactivated. Her choice of words and her grammar improved a lot: “If der Dinosaurier auf dem Dach staende, wuerde das Auto zerquetscht” (German for: If the dinosaur stood on the roof, the car would be squashed; Strangely Scarlett always uses ‘if’ instead of the German ‘wenn’). “Das Einhorn hat ein praechtiges Horn, die Raeuber wollen das stehlen” (German for: The unicorn has got a splendid horn, the robbers want to steal it).

However good Scarlett’s German has become you can still hear that she is not permanently living in Germany. She rolls the ‘r’, she often pronounces words like “machen” as “macken” and she says the ‘w’ in ‘zwei’ the English way.

Also Scarlett’s English has greatly improved. She knows future tenses and uses if clauses: “The supermarket is closing. It is going to close. You got to go, if not it’s closed”. When talking to her grandma or to the housekeeper she seems to be able to express everything she wants to say. Sometimes, usually after Scarlett has spent time with her grandma, she even uses English words in our German conversations: “Es ist weich wie cotton wool” (German-English for: It is soft as cotton wool) or “Ich habe mouth and teeth gemalt” (German-English for: I have drawn mouth and teeth) or “Das ist ein motorbike” (German-English for: This is a motorbike). On the other hand also German is sneaking into her English: “I go, aber (‘but’) you stay”.

In Italian her development couldn’t be better. Scarlett is perfectly in line with all her peers, has a wide vocabulary and is using quite sophisticated constructions like the conjunctive.

Another recent development we noticed in all the three languages is that Scarlett’s story telling skills have improved a lot. She tells us longer stories in a well structured way, using a lot of ‘because’ and ‘but’.

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