All of a sudden, Puce is interested in animals and the noises that they make. Living where we do, we don’t come across much wildlife, apart from the odd pigeon or dog, so not much of a chance to get into the nitty gritty of what animals say in France.
However, we’ve managed to assemble quite an array of hardback, softback, cloth and bathtime books on farmyards, jungles and pondlife. Lots of opportunities for pointing and imitating.
Cue the discovery that onomatopoeia here is completely different from in English. It’s not even just a question of accent, it’s a whole new language.
Ducks don’t quack they say coin coin (“kwan kwan”), rather than barking a dog goes ouaf ouaf (“waf waf”). My personal favourite is the cockerel who doesn’t say cock-a-doodle-doo but cocorico. Birds don’t sing tweet tweet but cui cui (“kwi kwi”); Puce has adopted this as being the name for a bird, but pronounces it “ki ki”. I sense that this is going to start getting complicated…
It doesn’t stop there, in fact a whole range of sounds are different. English clocks say tick tock, French ones say tic tac. When I sneeze I say “Atchoo”, but Monsieur R says “Atchoum”. I knew that we would be teaching Puce our different ways of naming things, but I didn’t realise until now that that would stretch to how we perceive the sounds around us. We’re just not hearing the same thing. But what does Puce hear?
We live opposite the hospital, so get more than our fair share of ambulances screaming by on their way to casualty. “Pin pon, pin pon” declared Puce as she sat playing with her pasta the other evening. Although we have a household policy of not contradicting the other language, I couldn't help but counter with “Nee naw, nee naw”. Because really, that is the noise that the siren makes. Isn't it?
A few weeks on, I suppose that I can claim a partial victory; passing ambulances are now heralded with cries of “Pee Paw”…