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Conversations for the linguistically challenged

I’m enjoying studying for my UK citizenship test more than I thought I would. There’s a sense of filling in the gaps – I can’t recall my basic education in Finland diving very deeply into British history and I only know it in a very patchy fashion. As a good capitalist, I know something about the Industrial Revolution and as a Jane Austen die-hard I know something about life in the 18th century, for example; a bit about this and that, but I couldn’t have laid out the story of the UK in a chronological, linear way at all.

The most interesting bit I’ve read about in my little manual is the early history. The book only glosses over it, but I finally had the epiphany (that everyone else had aged ten) about why the language is in such a state. There are so many synonyms for everything because the Roman invaders brought over one language, the Saxon invaders brought over another and then the French invaders finished it off by sticking a few –eau‘s and –tre‘s to it all.

More lovely art by @lottitymmartist!

My test is in about a month’s time. I’m using the same basic principle to prepare as I once did for the GMAT, which is to identify where I’m weakest and focus on that. In the practice tests I tend to fail questions about history and sports, so.

These are the two conversations I have with my toddler:

Me: Let’s do / go to / have X.
Him: I don’t want to do / go to / have X.
[1-2 minutes of back and forth]
Me: …


Him: I want Y.
Me: Okay, coming up.
Him / me: I want Y. I wan’t–Yes, I heard, it’s coming–Y. I want Y. Äiti, I want–I’m just doing this and then I will help you–I want Y. I want U. Äiti, I wa–Just a minute–nt Y.–I can only do one thing at a time.
Him: I want Y.

We’ve really worn down the grooves of these so-called conversations lately. I’d like more of the non-templated chats because they’re much more fun. He is still not such an experienced language user that he would know what the established way to say something is. It’s like he’s got a dictionary but no corpus, and it’s really interesting how he cobbles together words and expressions he knows to arrive at what he means.

Yesterday, he woke up with something to say. He searched for the words: ‘I… I’m… I’m enough… to sleep’. It was cute but not what I wanted to hear at 5.30am. On the way home from the park over the weekend, I sensed an impending attack of the can’t-walkies and tried to distract him with a game. He repeated after me: ‘I pie win my little tie…’ I Later he was remembering a haircut he had and said, ‘my hair is broken’. 😂

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