For one year Quentin’s German had virtually disappeared, but this summer it came tiptoeing back. When we were in Germany for our long summer holidays Quentin still spoke Italian most of the time, but he slipped in more and more German words and used two or three word phrases again: “Jetzt kommt Papa” (German for: Now daddy comes). Every now and then he said longer phrases:  “Das ist ein Schwimmbad. Ein Becken.” (German for: This is a swimming bath. A pool.” or “Das ist eine Lanze und das ist ein Schwert.” (German for: This is a lance and this is a sword).

This year in Germany it was full immersion right from the start, as Penny had to stay a lot in Italy. At the beginning Quentin spoke only Italian, but already after a couple of days when he was asked by a shop assistant which sweets he wanted, he answered to my surprise: “Zwei davon. Gelb und grün. Eins davon.” (German for: Two of these. yellow and green. One of these.) The spell was broken.

Quentin improved day by day and he was always eager to learn more. He kept asking “Was ist das?” (German for: What’s this?) and then repeated the new words immediately. When his grandad read stories Quentin pointed at pictures and asked: “Was machen die?” (German for: What are they doing?). He pointed at a car, which was parked next to some planes and said: “Das nein fliegen” (German for: This no fly). And he did not only learn new nouns, as in the years before, but also new articles, verbs, pronouns or adjectives

We could perceive that Quentin made a real effort to speak German, but usually he reached his limits quickly and fell back into Italian. But even then he mixed in the odd German word: “questa è una medusa tipo Herz” (Italian-German for: This is a jelly fish like a heart).

Quentin often played with German children and tried hard to communicate with them in German only. Going on a rubberboat with another 4-year old boy he said: “Du bist Kapitaen. Ich rudern.” (German for: You are the captain. I row). Playing football he said: “Du nein schiessen” (German for: You no kick). Only when the going got tough Quentin couldn’t keep back his Italian: “Non devi toccare con le Hände” (Italian-German for: You mustn’t touch with your hands).

Quentin usually used a simplified grammar. Often he didn’t conjugate verbs: “Ich spielen” or “Ich klettern hier”(German for: I play. I climb here), or he left out the verb completely: “Wo Schuhe?” (German for: Where shoes?) Quentin mixed German and Italian: “Du devi zumachen Zelt”, “Du hai gewonnen”, “Si schaukel bene” (German-Italian for: You have to close the tent. You have won. Swinging is good here). Occasionally Quentin even conjugated German words the Italian way: “Loro werfono i Baelle” or “Dobbimo rudare” (Italian-German for: They throw the balls. We have to row).

When our German holidays ended after almost five weeks, I had the feeling that Quentin was on the right track to make a real breakthrough. Unfortunately our return to Italy put a sudden end to it. We went to the Italian grandfather in Umbria where almost all the conversation was in Italian and even I spoke Italian most of the time. So Quentin fell back into Italian almost immediately. Now, three weeks after our return from Germany Quentin is back to speaking Italian, even though he still  makes an effort to use German words when he is alone with me.

This summer we also had some promising signs what concerns English. Before going to Germany we went on holiday to England where Quentin and Scarlett played quite a lot with English children. Quentin made a real effort to speak English. When a little boy said: “I can do a half split” Quentin answered: “Anch’io half split” (Italian-English for: Also I half split). Then they played hide and seek and the boy said: “I now run back” and Quentin repeated: “Io run back” and so on. Unfortunately our stay was too short to see a significant development in English, but we could see that Quentin understands English and is willing to turn it into active use.

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