Bilingual Grandchild
Thread poster: Alison Sparks

Alison Sparks  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:49
French to English
+ ...
Feb 19, 2012

Hello All

My grandson is not quite two years old, and lives in France with Scottish parents not far from me. We speak English to him as a matter of course "en famille", but he goes to the crèche and clearly knows a lot of French words which we don't necessarily hear. It tickled us pink to hear him say "oh la vache" the other day, which he definitely didn't get from us!!!

He also hears us speaking French when we are with friends.

We also encourage him to watch children's TV programs in French and I was shocked the other day to hear on a daytime program for children in French the word "motherf****r". Now I know this doesn't have any particular connotation for the French kids any more than "con" would have for English children watching a similar program to learn French, but surely there must be a line drawn somewhere.

Is there a code of practice one can draw to the attention of this particular broadcaster?

And how do you go about explaining to an under 5 the fact that what you might say in one language is definitely taboo in the other.

If you've already come across this as a parent or grandparent I'd really like to know how you handle it. It's clearly a "bilingual" (or tri) problem.

Thanks


 

Berni Armstrong  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:49
Member
English
+ ...
Deliberate use or ignorance? Feb 19, 2012

I remember a similar incident at a cinema in Barcelona. We were waiting for a kid's movie to start (original English version with subtitles) and I suddenly became aware of the background music, which was a gay porn rap! I kid you not!

Luckily, the kids were so excited about seeing the movie that none of them were paying any attention.

When I raised the issue with the staff after the film, I was told. "But we didn't know what the lyrics meant!" - In a cinema which regularly shows Original Language films, you’d think they'd learn fast - or play something more innocuous.

In your particular case, my advice would be not to draw their attention to any swear words. Kids seem to love learning them and if you get them focussed in any way on a word you don't want them to learn, it'll be the next thing out of their mouths.

In the particular case of Mother****er.... Have you heard the group EELS’ song “It’s a mother***er!” It is the most beautifully lyrical song about how tough some things in life can be (the writer had just lost his sister who had committed suicide). He manages to strip the word of its negativity and make it beautifully poetic. Lesson? How we use words is sometimes more important than what they are supposed to mean.


 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 18:49
Chinese to English
You don't need to explain to the kids Feb 20, 2012

"And how do you go about explaining to an under 5 the fact that what you might say in one language is definitely taboo in the other."

What's the point? If a child copies a swearword inadvertently, it's not going to hurt anyone. If and when it happens, tell them not to say it, it's a nasty word. It doesn't have to become an issue or a cross-cultural thing for the child.

The more we project our tension about swearing (or sex, or politics, or...) onto children, the more it becomes a source of confusion, amusement and rebellion for them. Remember that from a very young age, kids are very quickly socialised enough to know that there are certain things you can't say/do (no shouting "poo" at your nursery teacher, for example). It's not a problem for them if you just add this odd word they've picked up to the list of taboos.


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:49
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Seconded Feb 20, 2012

Phil Hand wrote:
"And how do you go about explaining to an under 5 the fact that what you might say in one language is definitely taboo in the other."
What's the point? If a child copies a swearword inadvertently, it's not going to hurt anyone. If and when it happens, tell them not to say it, it's a nasty word. It doesn't have to become an issue or a cross-cultural thing for the child.

Exactly. For children, especially at that age, words are just words, and they only are important to them if they are powerful... i.e. if they trigger a big response (good or bad, does not matter) in adults.


 

Derrio  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:49
Spanish to English
+ ...
Agree Feb 20, 2012

I think it's just part and parcel of living outside of the UK and living in continental Europe (or anywhere else for that matter) where you are much more likely to come across songs/films in English where words are 'bleeped out' or substituted for the UK market, but not elsewhere.

As an example, even good old Enrique Iglesias (bless him) sings that "tonight he's loving you" in the UK, but in the English version played in Spain he gives a much more graphic description of his evening's activities. The same goes for Prince (or the Sign, or Artist Formerly known as or whatever he is now) who sang about a 'Sexy Mother" on UK radio, but gave the full version across Europe.

My little Cherub started his schooling in South London where he was exposed to sayings I never imagined existed, but it doesn't mean to say he uses them now. When he comes to Spain and Enrique happens to be on the radio (which some may say is more offensive than the actual lyrics) he at best sniggers and at worst trots off back to school to tell all his mates what he heard, to which the reply is normally that they know as they heard it on YouTube.
I doubt very much that an under-5 will pay much attention to such words unless a lot of fuss is made about it, which in turn will make them want to say it more because of the reaction it created. As they get older, it's much easier to explain that certain words shouldn't be used if there is context (e.g. they say it to Great Aunty so and so) than just saying "you don't use that word". You also then risk the reply of "well Grandad does"!


 

cecilea7
United States
Local time: 06:49
Member (2010)
Portuguese to French
+ ...
That's what is called educating... Feb 20, 2012

Explaining when they are old enough to understand, and do not make it bigger than it is until then. Putting rules and more rules up has never worked, plus we don't want societies that look alike from on side of the world to the other???

 

Alison Sparks  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:49
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I get the message Feb 20, 2012

OK, thanks. No point in making it worse by making an issue of it seems to be the general consensus. Will bear this in mind and pass the message to his parents as well who were also a bit stunned.

What shocked me was that this was a children's program and on a government funded channel, and you'd have thought that there would be some kind of vetting of the language. There are surely increasing numbers of bilingual children.

We've already had to be much more careful of words when he's around as he seems to repeat everything he hears. I read somewhere that at that age children can assimilate around 200 words a day.

It's some 34 years since I was the parent of a 2 year old so I'm a bit out of touch with things.

Thanks to all of you anyway.


 

Daina Jauntirans  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:49
German to English
+ ...
Good advice here! Feb 20, 2012

You've received good advice here. As far as usage goes, I remember feeling the same shock about taboo English words being used blithely in Austria and Switzerland. In Austria, a prominent news magazine described (on the cover no less) Prince Charles's new relationship at the time as "F*ckingham Palace." In Switzerland, I heard younger people loudly using the f-word where I would use the much milder "crap" or something along those lines - if I stubbed my toe, for instance. I agree that there's a time and a place and even taboo words can be used to good or positive effect, but it was jarring to hear.

PS Of course, it happens to the best of us. My husband inadvertently used the f-word in front of our daughter when she was small to the great mirth of the other shoppers in the parking lot, who then got to hear her walking around pointing and saying "Is that an f-ing car? Is that one an f-ing car?"icon_smile.gif

[Edited at 2012-02-20 15:59 GMT]

[Edited at 2012-02-20 16:00 GMT]


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:49
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Governments should stay away Feb 20, 2012

Alison Sparks wrote:
What shocked me was that this was a children's program and on a government funded channel...

Well, this is precisely why I try to avoid any children's TV or cinema production that gets government funding. Governments in general tend to fund terrible things nobody would buy otherwise.

(Sorry for the off-the-record note.)


 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 18:49
Chinese to English
They certainly do Feb 21, 2012

When my oldest was two, I was waiting at the bus stop, and a bus drove past without stopping. I was in a hurry, and I swore I in Chinese. In a burst of linguistic virtuosity that I didn't know he had in him, he interpreted for me, at the top of his lungs: oh fuck, big bus go away!
I was far too amused to bother correcting him, and with a bit of control on my part it never happened again.
That said, I do agree that it's nice if children's tv can be free of swearing. An email to the tv station might do the trick.


 


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