Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Living in a Bilingual World (Grave)

'Right! Five minutes for both of you to leave your bedrooms tidied up!' Two pairs of eyes gazed at me astonishedly. 'Don't look at me like that, your rooms are not that messy, so five minutes should be enough.

Son went off to get the job done straight away, yet, Daughter hesitated a little bit and with a pleading voice said: 'Five minutes are not enough, Papi! You know that!'. 'Well, if you keep talking and standing there without getting on with it, of course you won't have time to get it all done! I'm going to put this timer on and in five minutes I'll be back upstairs to check that everything is organised.

In between doing the washing up and listening to Astor Piazzolla's superb live recording 'Libertango' I lost track of the time. However, I was sure that the five minutes that I had allocated to the children had already elapsed. I checked the microwave clock and it was almost 7.10pm, therefore they had been engaged in the tidying-up chore for almost twice the time I gave them. Yet, I was sure the timer had not gone off. I mounted up the stairs silently and on entering Daughter's bedroom she jumped up as if she'd just seen a ghost. 'Time's up'. 'No, it's not', came her reply, 'the timer's not gone off yet.' I strode to the bathroom and there were still a couple of minutes left. I went back to Daughter's room, but this time with an inkling as to what had happened.

- Did you touch the timer?
- No, I did not.
- Are you sure?
- Yes, I am.
- So, how come I set it for five minutes and it is still going, despite the clock downstairs displaying the correct time, that is ten minutes past seven?
- I don't know. Her eyes were fixed on the floor now.
- Are you telling the truth?
- Yes.
- So, you did not alter the time on the timer?
- Hmmm... A puzzled look crossed her tiny face.
- How many minutes did you alter the timer by?
- How do you say 'minutes' in Spanish?
- Oh, c'mon, you know that, I'm using the word now.
- Cinco minutes.
- Minutos.
- Minutos.
- OK, thanks for telling the truth. Don't do it again, please.
- No, I won't. How do you say 'minutes' again in Spanish?
- Minutos.
- And 'hours'?
- You know that, too. Horas.
- And 'days'?
- C'mon, you're pulling my leg now, darling, off to bed, c'mon.

And as I descended the stairs I could still hear her talking to herself: 'minutes, no, minutos, horas, días...'

Copyright 2007

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