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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Still Learning English…

Have you ever wondered what your kids are saying? Like other parents of teens and pre-teens, I have my fair share of “Huh?” moments, but for me, it’s exacerbated by the fact that mine are still learning English.

“I lost my noodle,” Pasha pokes here and there in the car.

“Shtoh?” I ask in Russian. “Lapsha?”

“My NOODLE,” he says.

Now, I would be the first to agree with him that he is generally not in possession of his noodle, but this time, I feel he means something else. I turn around to look at him. He makes a sewing motion.

“Needle?” I coach.

“Needle,” he agrees, snapping his fingers.

“Just find it before the dogs step on it….”

There are so many phrases that escape them in English. Pleasantries are okay after nine months home, not that they are always pleasant, but the nuances of English, and of course academic English take many years to acquire. Unfortunately, the world is a fast-moving place and waits for no one. There is little time to spare, particularly on our fast-paced lifestyle.

Recently, as we were driving a long distance, Benedetto pointed out crowds of people, cars, and balloons in front of a corporation on a major highway.

“Look, they’re shooting out by the road,” he commented to me. Naturally, several sets of ears picked up on the interesting comment.

“Are they hunting, Papa?” asked Petya.

“No, they’re filming for TV news.”


Something as simple as “shooting” gives our children an entirely different impression.

Over the weekend I had my bedroom door closed for awhile. At a time like this, the child-parent radar goes into overdrive and they are drawn like homing pigeons to my door. If the door is closed, they immediately need me. Urgently, if not sooner.

“Mama?” Sashenka knocks lightly.

“I’m exercising,” I call back, between huffs and puffs with my aerobic DVD.

Armed with that vital piece of information, she goes to report to Papa that Mama is doing something important. She’s not sure what, but needs to let someone know.

“Papa, Mama said that she’s extra-cising.”

“That’s good.”

He knows I need every extra bit I can get.

In school, the simplest words and phrases stump them at inopportune times. They tend to take it all very literally. Pasha is troubled by geography.

“Ah, Mama?”


“Vhat is this ‘river bed’? There is bed in river?”

And away we go into an explanation. It only happens every two minutes or so. How else are they going to learn? I think I’m losing my noodle, myself. Yet, I continue to hope and pray for elegantly refined and educated children who will one day make their mark.

The girls have opportunties all their own. We are at a historic stop, hopefully educational in nature. My youngest daughter decides on a new topic of study when we visit the Ladies’ Room. I hear her voice coming loud and clear from the bathroom stall next to me, as other women take care of their own business.

“Mama, vhat it mean here? ‘Do… not… place… napkins… in… toilet.”  She is very proud of her reading ability. “Why anyone put napkins in toilet?”

“Oh…etah….” I launch forth, with a full explanation in Russian. Several red-faced and bemused elderly women join us at the sinks, no doubt imagining the details of my discourse. It’s a life full of deftly-whispered definitions on the sly.

The three newest kids hear polite Petya after dinner asking if he may be excused. Pasha, who is not known to be the most observant nor perceptive child, decides to try it one evening for himself.

“Ah, Mama, Papa–can I be a big excuse?”

I look at his blazer and striped rep tie. He would fit in at any prep school visually, if not linguistically. I guess I will have to settle for that.

We try to stifle our laughs as the happy-as-a-clam-camper goes on his way, content in the knowledge that he’s mastered another English phrase perfectly suited for Polite Society.


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