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A Bilingual Child: Aha!

Alan Partridge

AHA!  (Benabomb on Wikimedia CC-BY-SA 3.0)

For a long time Mr. T has been saying ‘dah‘ for ‘yes’ or ‘sim‘, as I might have mentioned before.  And then last week it changed.  I had half expected him to start saying ‘‘ which you hear a lot in Portuguese as a way of agreeing and sort of saying ‘ok’.  Of course, he could have started to say ‘yes’, which he can produce when urged to imitate, or even ‘sim‘, but no, he came up with something else instead.

Instead of ‘dah‘ we have ‘aha’.  It seems that we have the son of Alan Partridge living amongst us.

If you ask him any question now the answer is usually ‘aha’.  So far I have noticed two different types of ‘aha’, one is the bored, uninterested ‘aha’ he uses when he knows he has to give you an answer to make you shut up and go away.  I have no idea where he got that one from as I know I have never been guilty of doing anything like it.  Stupid questions like ‘Did you go swimming today?’ are met with this ‘aha’ that seems to mean, ‘Of course I went swimming daddy, you were with me, so why are you asking such inane questions?  Now leave me alone to bash this giant red truck against this tiny blue car for the 100th time today’.

The other ‘aha’ is much more enthusiastic.  ‘Would you like to go to the park?’ is met with a vigorous ‘aha’ accompanied by his eyes lighting up and then an immediate and enthusiastic babble of other words which I think mean he needs to get his hat, or he wants to go by bus, or he’d like to see a tractor as well.

‘Dah‘ hasn’t totally disappeared.  He still uses it in question tags and when talking to himself, but its use has decreased drastically in a very short time.

Chicken and the Egg

I know that I use ‘aha’ a lot, but not only because I get asked such boring questions all the time.  It is also  a great communication strategy when I am talking in Portuguese and I don’t know exactly what to say, but I need to say something, so out comes ‘aha’.

Since Mr. T has been using it, though, we have noticed how much everybody in the house says ‘aha’.  Whenever mamãe or vovó says ‘aha’ we all pass knowing looks and between us.  It has got to the point where we are no longer sure if Mr. T picked it up from us saying it all the time, or if we have picked it up from him and incorporated it into our own language.

I think it is also pretty smart on Mr. T’s part to have chosen a word or sound that works in both languages, so he can brush us off equally well in Portuguese or English.  Just so long as he doesn’t pick up the other Alan Partridge behaviour traits I’ll be happy.

Family Guy Meets Aha

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Written by
Noah Cooper

I'm the head of the Cooper heard. My wife and I moved abroad when our first son who came along in May, 2011. I am a typical Brit abroad with a family to raise and am sharing the journey of the expat life abroad.

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Written by Noah Cooper