By Diane Ako
At five years old, Olivia's Danish language skills definitely outpace mine. Claus speaks exclusively in Danish to her. Up until recently, I could understand most of the repetitive commands: Have you had dinner? Do you want milk? Take a shower. Let's read a book.
Now, though, her vocabulary is really growing in both English and Danish. I don't feel left out, but rather, I see this as an opportunity to challenge myself to learn a little more of this language, even though it now means I have to make an effort, rather than to just be around it all the time.
I announced my intentions to the family and asked for Claus' help in tailoring some conversation just to me. "Speak half Danish to me so I can hear the word better," I asked. He is working on it, but it's going to be a hard habit for him to get into, I can tell.
And to Olivia, I asked her to teach me by reading me a Danish book at the end of the night. She is thrilled at being the teacher.
For a few nights so far, we've expanded the bedtime ritual thusly: after she gets an English book read to her, she "reads" me a Danish book. She points at the picture, says the Danish word, and has me repeat after her. She will correct me if I pronounce it wrong or encourage me if I say it right. Daddy is there as backup.
It's pretty cute. "Good job, Mommy! You did the whole page by yourself! Let's do the next page!" It's exactly all the things we say to her when we help her with her homework, but it's funny that she parrots it back to me now. Most surprising, it's really nice to hear it said to me. A few simple words of encouragement go a long way.
I'm actually not sure how much Danish I'll get from this, but it is an unexpected joy to watch my girl thrive in the role of a mentor, so for this alone I'm going to try to keep this ritual up for a while.