petite anglaise

February 7, 2007

better than babelfish

Filed under: Tadpole says — petiteanglaiseparis @ 8:07 pm

I printed out lots of short, easy words today and cut them out. The idea was to make sentences with Tadpole, who can now sound out words quite confidently, and see if she wanted to build a few of her own. The little flaw in my plan being that every time she said the letter “p”, the corresponding gust of wind blew them off the table, so that they fluttered to the floor like early learning confetti.

To overcome Tadpole’s strange reluctance to actually flex her reading muscles, I wisely included a few words which would make her laugh, such as: poo, wee, bum, potty and prout (I’ve yet to find an English word for this bodily function which I like the sound of half as much). Sounding out a phrase like “mummy did a poo on the cat” is clearly far more fun than “the cat sat on the mat”. I am however thankful that she is unlikely to repeat any of these at school, as nobody else speaks English.

How about this one, I said, throwing in a wildcard Yorkshire phrase which she associates with her Morris dancing grandad.

“Eeee Baa Goom” Tadpole said hesitantly.

“Say it a bit faster?”

Ee bah gum!” she said with a giggle. “Just like my grandad says!”

“I wonder how you’d say that in French,” I said, thinking out loud really, not expecting Tadpole to have an opinion on the matter. She’s been repeating that phrase since she was very small indeed, mimicking her grandad because she can play a whole roomful of people for laughs with these three magic words. But I don’t suppose she’s ever stopped to think what they actually mean.

I was wrong.

En français, moi je dirais OH LA LAAA!” cried Tadpole triumphantly.

Somebody get this girl a stamp, I think I’ve spawned a certified translator.


  1. And how totally smart is that! You must be well chuffed. So what would ‘well chuffed’ be in French?

    All the best.


    Comment by K — February 7, 2007 @ 8:26 pm

  2. Yay! First post! (sorry…)
    I love the way she says her ‘u’s in the french stylee- ie oo (well eww really but its very hard to write phonetically)

    Comment by Joy — February 7, 2007 @ 8:27 pm

  3. I love it! Tadpole is every bit the multi-lingual child. Don’t worry about her reading skills…she’ll be just fine.

    Comment by Culinary Cowgirl — February 7, 2007 @ 8:45 pm

  4. Tsk… clever clogs this little one! Indeed, who needs a certified translator when you have your own ‘tetard’?!

    Comment by Ariel — February 7, 2007 @ 8:47 pm

  5. You have a very clever child!


    Comment by clare — February 7, 2007 @ 9:00 pm

  6. But how do you know she said ‘dirai’ and not ‘dirais’?

    Comment by Tom — February 7, 2007 @ 9:01 pm

  7. um, because her grammar is better than mine

    (now corrected)

    Comment by petite — February 7, 2007 @ 9:06 pm

  8. I’m hoping you didn’t ask her where she stood on the ‘twunt/enc**é’ debate – there again, she might have made a better job of it…

    Comment by Marcos — February 7, 2007 @ 10:07 pm

  9. First post for me tho i have been reading your post for a year. Hugely entertaining and I am loving hearing about Tadpole’s progress.

    Comment by Catkin — February 7, 2007 @ 10:28 pm

  10. Qu’est-ce qu’elle est mignonne!

    Voracious reader of your blog since my own days in Toulouse last year – almost refresh your page as much as I do my email! Really enjoy reading entries and adore your comments on la vie à la française: so often rings a bell.

    Bonne continuation!

    Comment by Hannah — February 8, 2007 @ 12:00 am

  11. Prout is the funniest French word. I’m 34 and I still laugh out loud when people use it. An English verb that sounds equally funny (to me), that I learnt when I was in the States is: to toot.
    Beans, beans, the musical fruit
    the more you eat, the more you toot…

    Comment by frog with a blog — February 8, 2007 @ 12:31 am

  12. Hmmm.

    Comment by andrew — February 8, 2007 @ 1:23 am

  13. A few years ago my husband and i went away and left our 2 kids with my parents for 3 weeks. When we got back my then 3yr old sons favourite saying was “Its better than a poke in the eye with a blunt stick or a slap across the face with a wet fish” courtesy of grandad.

    Comment by Sara — February 8, 2007 @ 2:23 am

  14. Wow, three posts in three days! Is countdown to holidays somehow boosting? Very nice to observe anyway.

    Comment by Mardo — February 8, 2007 @ 2:46 am

  15. Does tadpole do tutoring?

    Comment by Meg — February 8, 2007 @ 6:27 am

  16. Yet another reason I feel on Péah’s wavelength – the Yorkshire connection. As a child living in Scotland the summer holidays in the fifties were always with Granny in Scarborough. It was in a cinema there that I saw “Et Dieu créa la femme” which was for an impressionable adolescent the beginnings of a francophile persuasion.

    Eee bah boom!

    Comment by malcolm thomson — February 8, 2007 @ 8:33 am

  17. It looks like I have competition!(I’m a translator). That’s great that she’s already aware of the differences, equivalents etc between the two languages. Well done Tadpole!

    Comment by Sparkle — February 8, 2007 @ 9:49 am

  18. I have found that although my girls speak English almost all the time at home, there is one French phrase that they prefer to the English equivalent. N’importe quoi. Whatever…..

    Comment by Helena Frith Powell — February 8, 2007 @ 11:17 am

  19. Isn’t it great when they can translate just like that [click of the fingers].

    Comment by Clare in France — February 8, 2007 @ 12:23 pm

  20. Now I need to know what prouting is.

    Comment by Huw — February 8, 2007 @ 2:27 pm

  21. You’ll have to get some of those magnetic words that go on the fridge – no problems with blowing around then.

    What’s Tadpole’s take on the ‘twunt’ problem?

    Comment by Damian — February 8, 2007 @ 2:32 pm

  22. Isn’t she wonderful. But aren’t you just a little bit worried that she might translate ‘Mummy did a poo on the cat’ into French at school?

    Comment by sablonneuse — February 8, 2007 @ 4:09 pm

  23. It will be the same thing for our children as we are French living in Ireland. How lucky they are starting in life with two native languages! lol :)

    Comment by Vanessa — February 8, 2007 @ 4:33 pm

  24. That child is so smart and cute, you’d want to put her in a sandwich!

    Comment by cak — February 8, 2007 @ 4:46 pm

  25. Prout, hmmm, I’m inclined to say “trump”. My dad says “ploof”, but I think that’s maybe a Scottishism.

    Comment by Alistair — February 8, 2007 @ 5:01 pm

  26. How sweet. I loved reading this. (Especially loved Mummy did a poo on the cat. Genius!)

    Prout – excellent word. We had “bottom-pops” for a while but now my eldest two at school, it’s farts all round. In both senses of the word, unfortunately!

    Comment by Lucy Diamond — February 8, 2007 @ 5:46 pm

  27. Fantastic!
    I laughed aloud when I read this one.
    Absolutely brilliant!

    Comment by Stute — February 8, 2007 @ 7:35 pm

  28. Je dirais plutot ‘O.. putain..!’ :-)

    Comment by fjl — February 8, 2007 @ 9:10 pm

  29. Oh, for god’s sake. To real translators, this is hardly a decent translation. What happened to regionalism in your so-called translation? It died a death between nationhood and regionalism.

    Just sounds like a ‘wanna-be’ mum, pushing forward her kid.

    Comment by Dr X — February 9, 2007 @ 3:07 am

  30. Though she’d been using both languages fairly equally, my girl was just over 3 years old when she figured out some of our friends/family speak English and others French, and she’s been providing a translation service ever since.

    Comment by Isabella — February 9, 2007 @ 5:22 am

  31. She is VERY clever – and advanced. I’m really impressed that she can read and speak one language, let alone two.

    You are so sensible to encourage the bilingual approach. I have friends who moved to another country, but didn’t keep up the other language with their children. This to me as a very poor “O’level only” French speaker who makes an effort when she visits, but who is NOT good at it and would LOVE to speak a nother language properly is a bit of a travesty really…

    Good for you P!


    Comment by Sally Lomax — February 9, 2007 @ 10:45 am

  32. Adorable!

    Comment by Fiona — February 9, 2007 @ 11:14 am

  33. Dr. X, puh-lease.

    #16, c’est quoi ça, Péah?

    Comment by joy — February 9, 2007 @ 2:19 pm

  34. smart kid, that tadpole

    Comment by mad muthas — February 9, 2007 @ 5:35 pm

  35. I have 18 months of French training in front of me for a job. Luckily, they pay me to do it. I am going to bring up this gem in class with my colleages!

    Comment by On the Cusp — February 11, 2007 @ 2:19 am

  36. Eh, bah goom, that were a right nice post!

    Comment by Bill Farrell — February 11, 2007 @ 3:57 am

  37. With my bilingual kids, I have always been well impressed with the way they translate “naturally” (I am a professional translator…). They do not get bogged down with words or even languages, they just translate one “idea” or “concept” by another, taking account of cultural context, register and a whole load of other “linguistic gymnastics” without a bye-your-leave. Now, I ask my five year old’s opinion when I have a sticky expression that needs translating!

    Comment by Amanda — February 12, 2007 @ 3:37 pm

  38. Pourriez-vous, ou vos lecteurs, nous donner de temps en temps les phrases que les enfants préfèrent dire dans une des deux langues? Quand mes enfants voulaient un bonbon, je trouvais que “pleaaaase” était bien meilleur que “s’il te plaît”

    Comment by clement — February 13, 2007 @ 12:16 pm

  39. Your lovely and amusing blog was actually the first blog I ever read! I keep coming back for your personal and lively accounts on your (and Tadpole’s) life in France. This post reminds me vividly of when I myself had children of that age. (The deeper meaning of Ee bah gum eludes me, however – I did click the link ;-)

    Comment by Joern Wennerstroem — February 13, 2007 @ 1:33 pm

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