Friday, April 04, 2008

Language lessons

Caroline wants to add a new song to our going to bed repertory. It's a Czech song and I don’t know the words, so I promise to learn them from Teta Jarka and sing it tomorrow night.

But no. "Now!" she says, in a four year old sort of way. When I tell her I can’t, that I really don’t know it, she says "That’s okay Mommie." Then she starts, very slowly, to sing a phrase at a time, getting me to sing phrases back to her just the same. She even stops and corrects my pronunciation, and I make my lazy tongue work hard to sound Czech.

Afterwards, I can’t remember most of the words because I spend the lesson wondering when this jump in language arrived, and how C learned to teach someone to sing a song so slowly and still get the words just right.

After Caroline falls asleep I go to Google and look up Czech nursery songs until I find it:

Zajíček v své jamce
sedí sám, sedí sám.
Ubožáčku, co je ti,
že nemůžeš skákati?
Chutě skoč, a vyskoč!

Little rabbit in your den,
sitting alone, sitting alone,
poor little thing, why is it
that you cannot jump?
Try* to hop,
hop and skip!

The song is so apt somehow, such a good nudge for me and language learning, that I laugh when I translate it. Maybe it is time to hop out of my den of comfortably bad Czech and try again to hop and skip in this language C shares with me so patiently.

*Want or desire to hop would be a closer translation but somehow try works better in English.


Anonymous said...

Looking at the Czech version makes my brain hurt. How in the world would you even BEGIN to pronounce anything in that language?! :D

Julia said...

Once you learn what sounds go with each letter, the pronunciation isn't so hard. For me, it is sort of like remembering to sit up and walk around with good posture - something that I can do when I focus on it but can also get lazy about.

The hardest part of Czech for me is the grammar, which no amount of sitting up straight would help me with - getting better at grammar requires effort along the lines of going to the gym every day for an hour of weight training ;-).

Karla said...

What a great song! I wish I knew the tune, I could sing it to Orion and Ms. Spots (although they do quite well in the hopping department).

Czech pronunciation... doable. Czech grammar... ugh.

Julia said...

I'm still trying to figure out how to best write out the music, but I will try to get it up somehow this weekend!