Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Lost in Translation

Last night, on our Chicago vacation, my father and I took all three kids on an evening walk around the neighborhood. Lola was "tired" and convinced my father to push her in a stroller and I pushed Fifi in her stroller while Jay kept up with us.

It was desperately close to bed time and I tried my hardest to keep Fifi up, by pointing to every bird, chipmunk, dog, and sprinkler within a mile radius.

We walked past the train tracks that unloaded commuters from the city, walked past the gates of Ravinia (the oldest outdoor musical hall in the USA), walked past Frank Loyd Wright's original residence on the shores of Lake Michigan.

And then, we walked past a simple woman with her dog.

"Hello." She greeted us.

"Hi. Perfect evening for a stroll, isn't it?" I smiled.

"Absolutely. It is a perfect night." She replied.

Such an ordinary exchange of words between neighbors on a pleasant summer night. Jay ran to catch up with me. I could see that he was thinking about something, wondering, and processing it all. I could see it in his inquisitive eyes.

"What's up, Jay?"

"Do you know that woman? Is she from Cleveland?"

"No. I believe she lives here, in Chicago, and is just taking her dog out."

"So, she is not from Cleveland?"

"No. Why?"

"Well she was talking in Cleveland. She wasn't talking in Chicago."

It was my turn to process what he was talking about. I thought about it, before answering. Ah ha, we had just spent the day in the children's museum that was over run by nannies from across the globe. Each of them conversing in their native tongues. We had just spent the last five days in a house where English is rarely ever spoken. All of the adults catching up in native Polish.

Being in Chicago is much more of an ethnic celebration than one would encounter in Cleveland.

The ordinary encounter with the neighbor was so typical of something that would happen in Cleveland.

"Oh, honey. Cleveland, Chicago, New York and so many other cities are all part of the United States, like the map you have on your bedroom wall. We all speak English. Some of us, like me, were born in different countries. I was born in Poland. I speak Polish. But we all speak English."

"I speak Polish.
Mówię po polsku." My stubborn father contributed.

Jay looked up at me and I was happy that the connection was made. He looked like he understood.

A mere 10 minutes later, two cyclists stopped in front of us.

"Excuse me, where is the Chicago to Green Bay bike path? We seemed to get off course." He adjusted his spandex shorts, not that I was looking.

"Two blocks west of here and parallel to the train tracks." I pointed west and shifted my eyes north.

"Thank you Ma'am."

Ma'am? MA'AM? Checking over my end-of-the-day outfit I realized that in fact I did look like a ma'am. I hardy noticed Jay tugging at my stained tank top. Jay witnessed the encounter and had an affirmation.

"I know, I know, they were asking for directions. I understood what he said.... they are obviously speaking Clevelandish." He confirmed.

"I speak Polish.
Mówię po polsku." My father confirmed as he pushed Lola in her stroller, through the multicultural streets of the North Shore.

63classy comments:

LaskiGal said...

How awesome that your children are exposed to other cultures!

And your father . . . making sure everyone knows who he is and where he is from. That sounds so much like my Armenian father and my husband's late Polish father.

Clevlandish . . . he might be onto something there.

A Whole Lot of Nothing said...

Your kids are SO much smarter than me. I can only speak 1 language.

Angie @ KEEP BELIEVING said...

Giving your kids a multi-cultural experience is hard for most of us. You live it. That is cool.

On another note, when my kids were little, I used to brag that I was mulit-lingual because I could speak Gavinese or in native Grant-tongue. Does that count?

KEEP BELIEVING

MamaWise said...

I wonder what my kids will think when they get older. I try to speak to them in Polish but they only seem to catch on to the English because that's what I predominantly speak around them, and plus English is much easier in my opinion.

Cheri @ Blog This Mom! said...

You had me at Spandex shorts.

Kathryn said...

Aww. That is so cute!

Jo said...

HAHAH!
I can relate to this conversation! Jasiu prances around telling everyone that he speaks THREE languages: English, Polish, and Spanish. They are so intrigued by it all! I love this post!

Hugs
asia

Tena said...

I think that is amazing, what a great blog entry

Happy Days said...

Out of the mouths of babes!

Jill said...

When we came back from Israel 4 weeks ago, my 5 year old quietly asked me why everyone around her was speaking English... she was surprised and confused.

I love the inquisitiveness of kids...

Tracey said...

That's so cute. Clevelandish...

Jolyn said...

Catching up here after traveling/breaking from blogging. So sorry you had trouble with your POW attempt... am wondering, do you speak polish at home with the kiddos? Do they do well in the language with their grandparents?

Rhea said...

That is so cute. Jay's observations are priceless!

Around here, in Texas, we hear a LOT of Spanish, so pretty much anytime my boys here another language, they're convinced it's Spanish. My little one heard French the other day and told me it was Spanish. hehe

Sounds like you're having a nice visit with the family in Chicago!

Tiffany said...

Oh, you are taking me right back to my days living on the north shore - We lived in Deerfield and Ravinia was a part of every summer we spent there! What a priceless exchange with your son and I can vividly picture probably right where you were and that is just so neat!

I love how cultured our generation of kids are. Now living in the Southwest, my children think that anyone who speaks a language other than english is speaking Spanish and in fact my son heard a little boy using some very profane language (in English no less...) and innocently commented that the little boy was speaking Spanish.

They truly do pick up the funniest things - Oh to be a fly on the wall of their thoughts!

maggie said...

Very sweet story. Loved so much about this, and your kids are lucky to have you teaching them first hand through experiences like this. Awesome.

Enjoy the rest of your trip!

Mandy said...

How cute and how very perceptive of little Jay!!!

And about that M'am, why must they do that!!!! Ha-ha!!!

Shannon said...

What a beautiful story!! You have such bright little children! I'm laughing at the spandex bike shorts too :-)

Crystal D said...

I just love how innocent the observation was.

Kelly said...

That's a neat story. I must be bilingual then because I speak Cleveland also. LOL

Allison Says said...

He had a very good observation, huh? It's funny how you have to think like a child sometimes in order to figure out what they are asking.

Chicago, from my experience there, IS very multi-cultural. It's just wonderful seeing such a diverse group of people.

P said...

My 6-year-old is having a really hard time understanding, too. Since we've moved to Houston, there is A LOT of spanish speaking going on by everyone. It's really hard for her to understand what's up with that.

Kash said...

HYSTERICAL. Chicago is like a foreign country to him! I love it.

Marmarbug said...

How awesome that you all speak Polish when together. I am lucky to understand the bit of Spanish I learned in college.
And how cute that Jay though it was from Cleavland.

Stephanie said...

How sweet! I can't wait until my kids are old enough for these kinds of memories!

Don Mills Diva said...

I think our fathers might be related.

April said...

I just giggled out loud first at the biker shifting his shorts and OF COURSE not that you were looking....and your stubborn dad. I love stubborn dads. :-)
It's so good that your kids get a chance to see so many different cultures every day!

Elizabeth said...

2 languages are the best...that is our house too! :-)

I get ma'amed CONSTANTLY being an Officer's Wife. I tell them..."Please, call me Elizabeth." with a nice smile...and they say, "yes, maam."

ho-hum

krissy said...

I admire the way you are able to analyze and explain things to your children. I would have just said "Oh, sure honey" or "Yep, that's right baby!"

You are a fantastic mother with fantastic kids and a fantastic husband. And this is why I love you so much. Because I should try to analyze things more. Maybe that "Mother of the Year" prize wouldn't be so out of reach for me if I followed your steps closer.

And thank you so much for taking the time out of your hectic life to drop me a line. I am honored. I don't expect it, you are busy, I totally get that. But thank you anyway. I smiled the biggest smile just seeing your face. I felt proud. That's totally freaky and silly, I know, but you are truly one of my idol bloggers.

You are so darn classy and I love you for you. Thanks again.

LceeL said...

So, take him to the South Side, where they speak 'Chicaga', where they say 'youse guys' and 'brudder' and 'whatcha mean?'.

Burgh Baby's Mom said...

That is awesome. You'll have to start vacationing in different parts of the country so he can learn a little Pittsburghese, Alabamaese, Texan, Californian, and some of the other fun languages that are out there.

Ali said...

my southern roots force me to call every female ma'am...from my 3-year-old..all the way up to my grandmother.

my canadian friends are always insulted.

heh.

Life As I Know It said...

That's awesome, and what a wonderful thing for your kids to so culturally aware.

I hate it when I'm called "ma'am!

Rachel said...

Too cute.
What a difference. Down here, everyone over the age of 18 is ma'am. It's not indicative of age, just a southern thing.
Love the 'speaking cleveland' . Jay is so smart!

Anglophile Football Fanatic said...

I think you just made Drew Carey smile bigger. And, want to scream "Cleveland Rocks!" just a little bit louder.

THopgood said...

Clevelandish!! That's fantastic!

I guess that means I speak Michiganish! LOL!

Crystal D said...

I gave you an award on my site today...

Gayle said...

I used to live in the Gold Coast in Chicago, along Lake Shore Drive. You make me miss it... I can just SEE the lady walking her dog.

Flea said...

OHmommy, you crack me up! And your dad is priceless. I don't think I speak Clevelandish.

Lisa said...

Makes me long for more diversity for my little ones. Makes me realize I need to seek it out more here in my piece of America - it's there, we just need to go do a better job of finding it.

Hope you're enjoying this time with your family.

crunchiemummy said...

That is too cute!

We're bilingual here! Well, my kids understand English, Scottish and American! Your post kind of reminds me of when my oldest went out in to the real world, meaning he started preschool. He came home telling us in his little english accent that you don't pronounce hand "hand," but "hee-and." Same thing with "snowman" -- it was "snowmee-an" from that day on.

Kimber said...

Oh I love it. You are a GREAT storyteller Oh mommy!

Kim

Elaine A. said...

I love this story. My parents speak Czech and it throws my son off whenever they start talking Czech when he is around. But then he starts asking them to speak it and he just laughs.

I think that's so funny that he thought the lady was from Cleveland! HA!

Blessings From Above said...

Clevelandish??? That is priceless! Particularly because I am a fellow Clevelander who speaks Clevelandish...

Helen E.M. Wright said...

very cute!!! it's funny how their minds work!!!
I'm Canadian, my husband is Scottish (born in Canada) and we live in the south. My son will use the Canadian, the Scottish and the Southern accent in one sentence!!!

Tam said...

Cute and a good story! LOL LOL

DysFUNctional Mom said...

What a cute story! He probably wouldn't know what to think down here. We speak Southern-ish. LOL

Laura said...

Oh my that is so cute!

This past weekend my son made friends with the two little girls next to the cottage we were visiting. They only spoke French. After about half an hour he toddled back - very proud that he had taught them French! Basically he would say in English", DO you know how to say stars in French?" THey would stare at him, totally confused and then he would say the work in French...he did this for all major body parts, holiday seasons, zoo animals, shapes, days of the week, and numbers...everything he learned in school this year...yep, he taught them French all right!

Thanks for sharing!

renatamic said...

hilarious!! wait until jay figures out even more differences btwn cleveland and chicago - like the way people drive? i drive chicago-ish! how about you?? a little bit chicago-ish and a lot cleveland-ish?? perhaps?

he IS so perceptive...my little mensa man!

Sully4 said...

I had to giggle at that story :) I am currently staying with my grandfather, and he is stubborn like your dad, but backwards. He's all about the ENGLISH. It's embarrassing sometimes, but your story made me smile nonetheless.

Kellan said...

Cute post! I have been called MA'AM way more times than I am comfortable admitting to - UGH!!

Hope you are having a fabulous trip to Chicago and hope those munchkins are having fun and behavin' themselves. Have a good time. See you soon - Kellan

Caroline said...

So enjoyed this post! We moved to Cali last year from Chicago. I miss seeing the "Zimme Piwo" signs everywhere...Cold beer anyone?? P.S. That's all the Polish I know...besides dupa! Stop by and say "hi" sometime!

April said...

You'll have to come visit here in L.A., so he can learn about Spanglish!

Tara R. said...

I love the way kid's minds work... Clevelandish... Jay would love visiting in South where it really sounds like we are speaking in another language. :D

NerdyRedneck Rob said...

Sorry OhMommy, where I was raised any adult woman outside your family is ma'am. It’s just simple respect.

My opinion of Chicago just went up.

Katie said...

Too cute, how wonderful that he notices the differences and can comment and ask you great questions!
Sounds like a great trip!

the dragonfly said...

Clevelandish. That one made me laugh out loud.

And I get called ma'am all the time...but that's because I live on a military base. Soldiers are taught to say "ma'am" to women. It used to make me batty, but I'm used to it now. :)

david mcmahon said...

Mix of cultures is what makes Australia such a great place. You would love it.

Karen MEG said...

Ma'am? Ma'am? You are too cute. I remember the first time someone called me that I was ready to slap them... nowadays if someone calls me miss, I feel like giving them a huge hug ;)

We used to live in a very Polish neighbourhood, and I loved it. Everyone thought my husband was Polish, as he would greet them when he entered the shops... and then stop because he didn't know any more than the greeting. And of course he always greeted them... Polish women like you are all so flippin' beautiful!!!!

just jamie said...

Welcome back OHMommy. Missed you. (Catch that? I was speaking San Diego-ish.)

:)

Love that Jay.

EatPlayLove said...

Ethnic communities are such a beautiful thing. I dread to admit, I live in the land of WASPs...

SLOWDOG said...

Oh isn't Chicago the best! I miss living there all the time! Jay is amazing -- Clevelandish...? LOL What a charming young man!

Jane the Sane said...

I love this story. Aren't kids great?

SF said...

I didn't realize there was a Chicago to Green Bay bike path. That must be beautiful!

 

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