Last Thursday I sent my two little American girls to school and they came back English. Well, with an English accent that is. I don’t what happened. It was like they changed over night. Since we’ve been here, they have picked up on lots of British terms and pronunciations of words that are different than their American counterparts. For example, Ellie has been throwing around “fancy that” for a while now. They both pronounce zebra as it’s pronounced here in England, rhyming with Debra. Those long black things covering their legs that they wear to school are trousers, and if I dare call them pants, I am corrected in a bit of a scolding voice. The bathroom has become the toilet. And Ellie has taken to calling me mum.
Even though they’ve started using some English terminology, they still sounded very American, until last Thursday that is. I don’t know how it happened so suddenly, but it was like a switch flipped on in them and now every time Leah asks me a question, she had a decidedly English inflection in her voice. Picture a little English girl saying “mumma” in her adorable English accent - that’s what she sounds like. Eric was out of town for work for a few days last week. This change happening while he was gone. When he got back home at the end of the week, I told him to listen to them and see if he noticed anything different. Sure enough, he wasn’t home for long before he agreed – our girls are starting to sound English.
On Saturday, I wrote down a list of interview questions and Eric sat them both down on the couch in front of his fancy camera to record the changes in their speech. We plan on doing this every few months while we are living here. Ellie was a pro, acting like a little movie star being interviewed and giving a perfect recount of a typical day at school here. Listening to her talk for several minutes describing her day, I couldn't believe how much her speech has been influenced by being around English accents five days a week, all day long. It was harder to pull things out of Leah, as usual, but we definitely heard it in her too. Now we have it on record for them to see when they are older and we’ve returned to the US and any hint of an English accent is gone.
All of this is fine with me, mostly. We are living in a different country and I have no problem acclimating to some of the terms they use here. But I am having a tough time getting use to my own children sounding English. It jumps out at me every time they speak, despite the fact that I have been here long enough now that when I’m at the grocery store, I don’t even notice the English accent all around me. But coming from them I do. It’s strange to hear your kid speak with an accent. Eventually, I know I’ll get use to it, especially since it’s bound to just get stronger and stronger the longer we are here.
As for the different terminology used here, I have found myself using some English terminology without even realizing it as well. This morning, I needed Eric’s parent’s address, so I called him at work to get it. I asked what the street address is, I know the city and state, but then I said, “What’s the post code?” Eric laughed. Guess I’m getting acclimated to England as well. But I have drawn the line on using two of the different terms they use here. First, if I ask either one of the girls to grab an eraser from the kitchen when they are working on homework after school, without hesitation, they will reply, “It’s a rubber mom, not an erase.” Sorry honey, it is an erase and it is going to stay an eraser in my vocabulary. I think most of you will be with me on that one.
The second term came up yesterday. I made a batch of oh so yummy Mrs. Fields Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookies. I have yet to see a chocolate chip cookie here. In fact, I really haven’t seen any homemade looking cookies anywhere here, not in the bakery section in the grocery store, not at the coffee shop, and not at the bakery. The bags of chocolate chips they sell at the grocery store are tiny, maybe ½ cup in each. So I’m starting to suspect they don’t do homemade cookies here the way we do in the US. Therefore, when Ellie invited her friend Mia from school over to our house, I thought I would make something that would give her friend a little taste of our US culture, and what better treat than a good homemade chocolate chip cookie. When the girls came home from school and saw that I had made chocolate chip cookies, after dancing around the kitchen, Ellie says, “Thanks for making chocolate chip biscuits for us.” Oh, no, no my dear. These are chocolate chip cookies and will always be called chocolate chip cookies by me, no matter where we are. Chocolate chip biscuit just doesn't sound right. <Update: Ellie's friend Mia said she has had chocolate chip cookies. Apparently they are usually sold in brown paper bags which might explain why I haven't seen them.>