Monday, May 19, 2014

Bilingual tidbits and names for people

In an effort to become a part of the bigger bilingual world as a whole, I signed up to be on a mailing list for a blogging "carnival" where there is an assigned topic and everyone sends their submissions in to be on the master list.

Well, I sat down to tackle the May topic, only to find out that the deadline was May 18th. D'OH! Oh well, the topic was to do with technology, which is a little bit of a stretch for us at this point (aside from David screaming CARS at the top of his lungs daily until we put on an animated car video for him to watch).

Maybe next time the topic will be more relevant.

As I think I mentioned before, there are some links to bilingual blogs in my sidebar, and they in turn have links to more blogs. There is a lot of good content in there; book reviews, etc.

Here's one topic we've been discussing at home lately:

What do you teach your child to call strangers on the street? Walking by, in a store, or even casual acquaintances?

Whenever a Russian child points at a person walking by, his accompanying adult gives that person a title: "Dyadya/Tyotya (Uncle/Auntie) is most often used to differentiate men and women. If the person is obviously elderly, then maybe a Babushka/Dedushka (Grandmother/Grandfather) will do. And of course little babies are called little babies...well, you get the idea. Makes sense, right? Then with friends and acquaintances the child learns the person's name: Tyotya Olya, for example.

People keep asking me the English/American counterpart, and...I've got nothing! Honestly, I feel awkward shouting out Man/Woman/Girl/Boy whenever David points at someone. I'm not even sure I'm comfortable having him point at people. But at the same time it's such a natural process for the child to point and the parent to teach vocabulary. I don't know, I must just not have enough parenting experience. Either that or I've been abroad for too long. ;)


  1. I used to think I would never teach my child to call people "tyotya/dyadya", it just sounds so uncouth to me. But yeah, I ended up doing it anyway.

  2. Funny, I forgot about this post, and I still miss the deadlines for submissions every time! Did you try reading any of the bilingual blogs in my sidebar?

    I insert "tyotya/dyadya" into English sentences, which is even worse! At least now it is more natural to call people man/woman in the context of a full sentence. Telling David "that man is going bye-bye" is less awkward than pointing and saying "man!" So the problem resolved itself over time. :)

  3. That's true, sounds a lot better in a full sentence. By the way, how do you teach David to address adults in English? By their first name or Mr. and Mrs.? What if they are Russian? I suppose first name and patronymic is too difficult for any two-year-old. But Mrs. Natasha or Mrs. Ivanova sounds weird.

    1. I guess we haven't been in any formal situations! He just calls them all "Dyadya/Tyotya." But if I called them by name/patronymic I think he would hear and do the same, or come up with his own version. As for American culture, it's been a very long time since I called anybody by Mr./Mrs. In a school setting, you might see "Ms. Natasha" (or Ms. Ivanova) being used for both married/unmarried women.


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