Monday, May 23, 2011

The Joys of Bilingual Children

All us Moms end up doing school projects with our kids. It's part of the package, right? Well, mine today was a little different.

You see, my 4 yr old is learning about the ocean and everything in it. He picked 2 sea creatures for us to do research on. Of course he comes back with the Portuguese name and then translates it to English for me. FYI, not always a smooth translation.

That's when we get into verbal charades. It includes a lot of hand movements, some sighs (from both of us), and him drawing pictures to help me out. From there we find the animal (an Anglerfish that the teacher called a Vampire fish). Of course we have to find photos and fun facts. That starts translation number two.

And you know what, I half-assed my kid's project and busted out Google Translate. Well, it's not entirely half-assed but more like I lack under the sea vocabulary. Why we don't talk more about algae and random fish species at dinner parties and playdates is beyond me.

So I throw it in there and then correct the obvious translation mistakes.

In some ways I find the entire process unfair. While other Moms can focus on the artsy fun part, I have to actually worry about context. Does it make sense? Is that really how you say that? Is it only me that finds conjugation of Portuguese verbs cruel and unusual punishment?

Honestly, I doubt the teacher even notices. Who would have the time with a classroom of 16 cracked-out 4 year olds?!


  1. And things are getting more complicated when your native language is something that only 5 million people use. Almost nothing in Google Translate makes sense, if you try to translate Portuguese.

    So everything has to be first in English. If you are lucky, you can understand that. If not, there's a chance to get totally lost.

    Fortunately I understand enough to enjoy your great blog!


  2. Hi Rachel,

    I find the follwing little trick useful: insert the word you want translated then add "proz".

    Below the result for angelfish.

    You can also go to and enter the discussion forum to then ask the other participants for help regarding the translation you can't find.

    Bilingual kids are awesome. I was one of them.

  3. Oopsy daisy, I just noticed that the fish in question is an anglerfish, not an angelfish. Oh well. I guess you can use angelfish for the next project.
    I am hungry now.

  4. Anglerfish are so awesome! At least it's translating fun factoids instead of classic Portuguese literature. (At least this is how I would feel, if it were in French)

  5. Anglerfish are very cool! Anglefish are pussies ;)

  6. Rachel,

    Portuguese is cruel and unusual punishment, I know, I am a native.
    When I learned English as a child I was pissed at having to learn Portuguese verbal conjugation, so unfair.
    Give me regular verbs and call it a day :)