Aviana had been back at school for just two days and she came home saying she “gotta go paaaady”. My interpretation – Aviana has to go party??! Oh no….she has to “go POTTY”. (Not even “go to THE potty”!!) American’s pronounce Ts very differently to us Brits. For example when I go out to a restaurant I have to order a “Waadder” so to be understood, because if I ask for a Water (with a Teee!) I get a blank stare as if I’m an alien.
So, it finally happened Aviana came home from school speaking American to us.
I’ve been meaning to write a post about accents and how Aviana uses American and British words. And now it seems appropriate I should write this now she has come home with this new phrase.
I had noticed that Aviana has been using British words when speaking to Chris and I (such as nappy or rubbish) and generally annunciating words with a British accent. But when she was with American teachers/nanny/others she appropriately used the American version (such as diaper or trash). Huh! This girl is smart! So I thought…. But it turns out this is an amazingly short period of time where this happens. At around 20mths toddlers are massively influenced by the accents they are surrounded by at daycare/school. Fascinatingly, babies can differentiate between British and American accents at just 5 months old. It turns out it is around the age of 2 that is a prime time for automatic language development (bilingual kids can learn without needing to understand how a language works). They just get it. I have been learning about this incredible phenomenon spurred by reading a book by Maria Montessori “The Absorbent Mind” who observed this period of a child’s development in her work.
I find recent news reports of young American and Canadian kids speaking in a British accent after watching (a lot) of Peppa Pig hilarious. This peppa pig phenomena isn’t uncommon…there are many reports of kids speaking Spanish words before English words after watching Dora the Explorer or British kids speaking with American accents after watching imported cartoons. It’s fascinating how impressionable these programs are on their language development!
But the real question is – how long will Aviana have an accent for if we leave America? And will it make a difference how old she is? Good question….this will be my next research task! But for now it looks like Aviana will be speaking more and more with an American accent and her British accent was short lived.