Summer is over, we are back in Milan and little Quentin started going to the kindergarten. His language is improving slowly but he is still far behind his peers. While most kids of his age already speak fluently, Quentin’s language is still rather basic. There has, however, been great progress and we are confident he is on the right path.

The past months must have been rather confusing for Quentin, as he has been exposed to many different language surroundings. First we stayed for a month in Germany with the German grandparents, where we generally spoke German. In between Penny came to see us and then she spoke Italian to the kids and we spoke English to each other. Then we spent ten days in Umbria where the surrounding language was Italian but we spoke English in the house as we stayed with the English grandma. We also spent a week in Cornwall, where the surrounding language was English but we mainly spoke Italian, as we went with the Italian cousins.

So it doesn’t come as a surprise that Quentin is mixing languages big time: “tu non mi da gun, tu non do in bici” (English-Italian for: you don’t give me the gun, you don’t go with the bike) or “Tata, du guck hier, me komm da te” (German-English-Italian for: Scarlett, look here, I come to you) or “a beach andiamo” (English-Italian for: to the beach we go). When we saw the long jump in an athletics competition Quentin commented: “Bello jump” or “Brutto jump” (Italian-English for: good jump, bad jump), or he says: “C’è more?” (English-Italian for: Is there more?), “C’è Bagger, c’è wheel” (German-English-Italian for: There is a digger, there is a wheel). We parents usually understand, but I suppose an outsider is at a complete loss, especially as Quentin is mispronouncing many sounds (instead of ‘go’ he says for example ‘do’).

When we arrived in Germany at the beginning of our holidays Quentin spoke very little and if he did it was mainly English-Italian. Only when Penny came he would speak more and then it was Italian of course. After two and a half weeks though Quentin slowly warmed up to the German language and started using many new words: ‘Burg’ (castle), ‘Mauer’ (wall), ‘Dach’ (roof), ‘Loch’ (hole), ‘Anker’ (anchor), ‘Boot’ (boat), ‘Ruder’ (oar), ‘Hai’ (shark), which are obviously connected to our bucket and spade holidays, but also ‘spielen’ (play), ‘Puppe’ (puppet), ‘Bier’ (beer), ‘Kuchen’ (cake), ‘Warte’ (wait), ‘vorne’ (at the front), ‘hinten’ (at the back), ‘Flug(zeug)’ (plane), ‘nackig’ (naked), ‘Augen’ (eyes), ‘Kinder’ (children), ‘drei’ (three), ‘vier’ (four), and finally ‘Auto’ instead of his beloved “car”.

Usually Quentin says single German words, but sometimes he utters phrases like “Foto machen” (take a photo), or even “Wo ist Mama?” (Where is mom?). Usually however he mixes languages once the phrases get longer: “Tomm Tata dopo machen Joghi” (German-Italian for: come Scarlett, later we have a yoghurt).  As always it is very reassuring that Quentin’s passive understanding is very good, he seems to understand most of what is said in German.

Also in English Quentin understands a lot, the English nonna and our housekeeper say they don’t have problems communicating with him. What concerns active use, English however has fallen behind. There was a time when Quentin’s preferred language was English, now Italian and German have left it well behind. Quentin still uses English words but usually he blends them into mixed language sentences: “tu do in water” (you go in water, saying ‘do’ instead of ‘go’) or “tu play a bit”. His awareness of different language was shown when he said: “Nonna ha detto ‘pants’” (Italian for: grandma said pants)

In one of my last blogs I stated that Quentin’s Italian was surprisingly weak considering that he lives in Italy, goes fulltime to an Italian kindergarten and his mom speaks Italian to him. This has changed a lot. His Italian vocabulary has improved a lot, when he says longer phrases they usually tend to be predominantly Italian.

Quentin also started asking Why-questions and they are mainly Italian: “(Per)chè acqua va via?” (Italian for: Why does the water go away), “perchè tu non namnam?” (Italian for: Why don’t you eat?). He can however ask why-questions in the other languages  ‘Why’ and ‘(w)arum’ (German for: why).

And as far as the strongest indicator of language skills, the passive understanding, is concerned we definitely have the impression that Quentin is strongest in Italian.