Bilingual child’s creative translation

Today, like most days, my four years old daughter Miru sang a song in kindergarten. When I asked her to sing it to me after I picked her up and she was enjoying an ice slushy that colored her tongue orange, she rendered a perfect translation in Dutch.

Good, the song consisted of three distinct words (‘Car, car, car. Let’s go’ in Korean) but her translation took me by surprise because it was creative: ‘Auto, auto, auto. Even weg’.

This comes so naturally to her that I begin to understand how multilingual children are hard-wired differently from the rest of us. According to a Russian-Italian I once asked about it, they think ‘in images and concepts’ rather than in words. The above translation would be a perfect example of it. Miru had sung the song in Korean, but probably remembered Dutch TV animations about cars that she had watched at home. The idiom “even weg” might have come from an animation or TV show she is watching, or she might have heard the expression while visiting her paternal grandfather in the Low Countries. Either way, instead of looking up the term for ‘let’s go’ in some sort of internal dictionary, her mind had browsed all ‘car’ situations and concepts and selected one labeled ‘Dutch’. And that concept happened to be accompanied with the phrase ‘even weg’.

Bilingual child’s creative translation was originally published on Meandering home

End-Of-Line

Istanbul, December 2011. After a really nice visit to Dutch poet Martijn Benders, who gave me two of his poetry books on the occasion, I decided to do one of the poems in English because I think it would be a good poetic anthem for the “occupy” movement. I take all the blows, of course.

* * *

End-Of-Line

The shutters are shining.
Knuckle white Christ in braille.
A neighbor to all. A city in ashes. An egg.

Whether metaphors are to be allowed after Nine Eleven.
Democracy needs a wheel clamp, freedom
is what penurious philosophers come up with. Wheels
do turn. Is war a continuation of the soul with different wheels?
Why is it that I am afraid of my keyboard?

A documentary on scary diseases on Discovery Channel,
rolls that don’t look like rolls anymore after two weeks.
Vanity Rules. Cash flow flows. Weapons are getting bored.

We dread at the past through beauteous books.
We snitch if the neighbor is bitching.

I went to Bommel to see the skyscraper.
The Thing approached. I kicked threefold full throttle
but someone had built a bridge between the civilisations.

Quick announcement to a literary critic.
Go find a job, dickhead.

Happiness presents itself between the lines. End of Line!

(wonder which Dutch lines I distorted here? buy the original!)

End-Of-Line

Istanbul, December 2011. After a really nice visit to Dutch poet Martijn Benders, who gave me two of his poetry books on the occasion, I decided to do one of the poems in English because I think it would be a good poetic anthem for the “occupy” movement. I take all the blows, of course.

* * *

End-Of-Line

The shutters are shining.
Knuckle white Christ in braille.
A neighbor to all. A city in ashes. An egg.

Whether metaphors are to be allowed after Nine Eleven.
Democracy needs a wheel clamp, freedom
is what penurious philosophers come up with. Wheels
do turn. Is war a continuation of the soul with different wheels?
Why is it that I am afraid of my keyboard?

A documentary on scary diseases on Discovery Channel,
rolls that don’t look like rolls anymore after two weeks.
Vanity Rules. Cash flow flows. Weapons are getting bored.

We dread at the past through beauteous books.
We snitch if the neighbor is bitching.

I went to Bommel to see the skyscraper.
The Thing approached. I kicked threefold full throttle
but someone had built a bridge between the civilisations.

Quick announcement to a literary critic.
Go find a job, dickhead.

Happiness presents itself between the lines. End of Line!

(wonder which Dutch lines I distorted here? buy the original!)