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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Squid for Breakfast

So this morning's breakfast conversation centered around the giant squid. As per our custom, my husband was speaking in Japanese, I was speaking in English, and our sons were speaking in whichever language caught their fancy at the moment. Then I noticed that my husband said something about the giant squid's legs.

"Legs? You say legs? We say arms in English." I was intrigued with the difference.

"I didn't know that," said my husband. "That's so interesting." And we launched into a discussion of never having given a second thought to the appropriateness of the word we used to describe a squid's appendages. We conferred on octopi--same story: legs in Japanese, arms in English. We talked about the drawbacks and advantages of each term.

"That's so interesting. I didn't know that," I kept marveling. I turned to my sons. "Did you know that?"

They shrugged. "Yeah, sure." They were singularly unimpressed.

"Why didn't you ever tell me?" I demanded.

"Tell you what?"

And that's the difference between being a second language learner and a bilingual. Differences always fascinate (and sometimes frustrate) me, while with my kids, what is simply is. The way that I don't think about the words I've learned in English, they don't think about either of their languages. They don't compare: what is, is.

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