Friday, February 9, 2018

We don't speak that kind of English

After just six weeks in 4K and second grade, we yanked the boys out of the only school they’d ever known and moved them around the world. The timing wasn’t ideal, but the job and our visas determined the schedule.

We gave the kiddos a two-week break, one on each side of the pond, and then it was straight to international primary school. 

We were shocked and thrilled at how welcoming everyone was  teachers, administrators, students and parents. People came right up and introduced themselves. The kids received hand-drawn welcome cards from their classmates, and everyone already knew their names and home country.

That’s not to say it was all easy peasy.

When I picked up Mo on his very first day, he was frustrated and upset.

“You didn’t put me in the right class.”

“What do you mean?” I asked, thinking he noticed that he was one of the oldest because of his late August birthday.

“My teacher isn’t speaking English!”  

He told me how he got in trouble for throwing garbage in a plastic storage bin. 

They ate lunch in the classroom, which was strange for him. When he was done, he wasn’t sure where to put his bread crusts and empty juice box. So he asked the teacher and she replied, “Put it in the bin.” 

Of course, she meant the garbage bin. 

But in Mo’s barely 7 years on the planet, the word “bin” always meant a clear plastic storage vessel. Not a garbage can. So when she told him “Put it in the bin,” he looked around, shrugged, and threw his rubbish in her storage container, thinking he was following directions. 

She promptly admonished him by writing his name on the chalkboard, thinking he was being a smart alec  which is all fairness, he often is. Just not this one time.

He recounted how confusing it was when she asked him to, “Get in the queue.” The what? To him “Q” was a letter and a letter only. 

Suddenly, zee was zed. Color was colour. And maths was plural.

I tried to explain the difference between American and British English. 

His response: “Well it’s not Wisconsin English. And I’m sorry, but I don’t speak British.” 

The funny thing is, soon my boys did start speaking British. Words like “ice lolly” (Popsicle), “plaster” (Band Aid) and “trousers” just appeared in their vernacular. 

When Curly came home with a sticker, I asked him how he earned it. He replied, with a hint of an accent, “For tidying up and sitting smartly.”

It wasn’t for another year that Mo made me nearly fall off my chair. He was sitting at the kitchen table finishing up some homework. He casually looked up and asked, “Mum, can I have a rubber?”

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