Tuesday 8 November 2011

baby talk

I don't have to tell you that American English and British English are not the same. Sometimes you find subtle differences ("call me at..." vs "ring me on...") and sometimes they are more obvious ("elevator" vs "lift"). Ever since I obtained British citizenship, I like to joke that I am bilingual in English. I can spell it color or colour; organize or organise; curb or kerb.

There are two areas in particular where I have noticed the biggest divide: cars and babies.

Car and vehicle terminology varies widely: tire/tyre, trunk/boot, stick shift/gearbox, gas/petrol, rental/hire. Working in transportation and logistics for the past few years, I have started to adopt the local words, for ease of communication if nothing else.

Now I'm learning a whole vocabulary. While it is not yet second-nature, I figure there's plenty of time to confuse Junior later on - I might as well try to be consistent at first. Here is a glossary that I have started in no particular order (British to American). Hope it helps his relatives on both sides of the Atlantic!

  • antenatal :: pre-natal
  • Moses basket :: bassinet
  • carrycot :: bassinet
  • cot :: crib (although these seem to cross over a bit)
  • bath the baby :: bathe the baby
  • pram, buggy, pushchair :: stroller
  • babygro :: onesie (as well as more terms for each in both countries)
  • dummy :: pacifier
  • nappy* :: diaper
  • breastfeed :: nurse (some cross over, but preferences in each country)

*which gives a whole different meaning to the song we used to sing to put my sister to sleep: "it's happy nappy time..."

Aside from spoken and (eventually) written English, I would like to teach Junior sign language. My dilemma is American Sign Language (ASL) vs British Sign Language (BSL). I studied ASL for several years in high school, and while I don't remember much, it would be far easier for me to pick it up again. But would BSL be more useful in the long run? Or will it really matter if I just stick to a few basic words like milk, more, hungry, want, yes/no...?

Junior, like me, will be a dual citizen. I wonder if he will develop a London accent, which neither S nor I have. Will he be able to switch between American and British accents? Which one will he favo(u)r someday? Will he struggle with other languages? How much Japanese will he learn if I teach him?

It's exhausting/knackering just to think about it!

1 comment:

d.o.ctor said...

Greetings from a fellow Mawrtyr and a once member of the BMC London group. I remember those meetings and wheels of brie at Lady Q's fondly. Just wanted to wish you a hearty congratulations on your future blogging, multi-lingual, diversely cultural Junior.